Nanomechanical Scratch

Nanomechanical Scratch Testing

Nano-scratch – or nanomechanical scratch testing – is an alternate, broader experimental mode to the related nanoindentation measurement. Like nanoindentation, it is used to assay force response properties of very small solid samples.

In nano-scratch testing, both thin-films and bulk solids can readily be characterized, and a more diverse array of deformation and fracture features can be analyzed as compared to standard nano-indentation.

For nano-scratch, a calibrated, normal load / force is applied to an indenter tip while it is skimmed across the sample. Unlike in nanoindentation, where penetration depth / indent characteristics are the focus of measurement, nano-scratch instruments also track the force required to keep the tip moving laterally across the sample surface. Force, displacement, and optically profiled sample damage are then jointly analyzed to generate nanomechanical insights.

Application Areas for Nano-scratch

Nano-scratch is used to assay friction, hardness, and modulus of films, microstructures, and other very small features in diverse industries. These include: photovoltaics, semiconductors and electronics, optical components, coatings, depositions, and metallurgical / geological samples.

Measurements from Nano-Scratch

  • Stiffness
  • Hardness
  • Modulus
  • Deformation under Strain


  • What it is great for:
    • Advanced mechanical analysis of nano-scale solids
    • Toughness / Adhesion test for films 1 nm or thicker
    • Efficient data collection
    • Minimal sample preparation
  • Limitations:
    • Destructive
    • Not well suited to ultrathin layers (< 10 nm)
    • Limited spatial resolution for 2D imaging


3D Image of Nano-Scratch on moderately soft film. Rupture of film at low-load indicates susceptibility to failure.
From Bruker.

2D plot of displacement over time showing fall-off associated with film delamination due to scratch-test.
From Bruker.

INSTRUMENTS we use for
Nano-Scratch Testing

Bruker Hysitron TI Premier High- and Low-Force

These best-in-class nanomechanical testing tools provide customizable, high-accuracy, efficient measurements of a variety of nanoscale mechanical and tribological properties. A suite of customized modules facilitates analysis using quasi-static, dynamic, high-temperature and spatial mapping detection modes. With an ultra-precise, built in optical microscopy system and unique capacitative transducer technology, the TI Premier is the industry leader in nanomechanical testing technologies.