Nanomechanical Testing

NANOMECHANICAL (Hysitron) TESTING SERVICES

Mechanical and tribological properties are critical to performance across a broad spectrum of applications, and nanomechanical testing techniques evaluate these properties on micrometer to nanometer length scales. Also known as nanoindentation or instrumented indentation testing, these techniques work by vertically pushing an ultrahard tip into the sample. The resulting force and displacement data enable accurate, quantitative measurements of properties ranging from hardness, modulus, and fracture toughness to friction and wear. Nanomechanical testing is particularly useful for stiff materials such as metals, ceramics, semiconductors, and glasses but can also be performed on polymers and other compliant materials.

Categories of NANOMECHANICAL TESTING SERVICES:

  • Nanoindent
  • Nanoscratch
  • Nanowear

APPLICATION AREAS FOR NANOMECHANICAL TESTING SERVICES:

  • Thin Films and Coatings
  • Optical Components
  • Semiconductors/Electronics
  • Manufacturing: Process Control, Quality Control, Failure Analysis
  • MEMS and NEMS
  • Solar Cells and Photovoltaics
  • Materials Science Development

MEASUREMENTS FROM NANOMECHANICAL TESTING:

  • Hardness and modulus of films, microstructures, small parts, and other localized regions
  • Friction and wear of coatings, interfaces, and substrates
  • Interfacial adhesion and fracture toughness of films, coatings, and graded interfaces
  • Scratch testing versus applied load

USES & LIMITATIONS OF NANOMECHANICAL TESTING SERVICES:

  • Strengths:
    • Quantitative measurements with a sub-micrometer spatial resolution
    • Applicable to virtually all materials including metals, ceramics, composites, and polymers
    • Easily handles samples inaccessible to macroscale tools (e.g., thin films, MEMS, micro-components)
    • Instrumentation design inherently yields highly accurate data
    • In-house calibration protocol ensures more reliable, repeatable results
    • In-situ scanning probe microscopy (SPM) provides additional measurement accuracy and insight
  • Limitations:
    • Ultrathin (<10 nm) layers can require more sophisticated procedures
    • Measurements on soft polymers may be challenging
    • Permanently damages a micro-sized volume of the sample
    • Limited capabilities for 2D imaging

EXAMPLE OUTPUTS FROM NANOMECHANICAL TESTING

The linear sensing and actuation design of nanoindentation instruments enable extremely precise, accurate measurements.

Three ways to measure surface mechanical properties:

  • Indent: Hardness test for films > 50nm.
  • Scratch: Toughness/Adhesion test for films 1 nm or greater.
  • Wearbox: Durability test for films down to ~ 1nm.

Comparison of hardness versus time obtained using Covalent’s in-house algorithm (orange) and a standard algorithm (blue). The Covalent algorithm yields more repeatable results with lower variability.

INSTRUMENTS

Bruker Hysitron TI Premier