Nanomechanical Wear Testing

Nanomechanical Wear Testing

Nanomechanical wear testing – or “wear-box” testing, as it is sometimes called – is a technique used to evaluate wear and tear at sub-micron scales. Broadly, wear properties encompass linear and non-linear processes associated with deformation and sample damage under sustained, iterated, or dynamic forces. These are meant to probe the stability and strength of a material at withstanding shear or warping under strain.

For wear-box / nanomechanical wear testing, a nano-scale unit volume within the sample surface is subjected to a raster-scanned force, usually applied via an indenter tip. The scan can involve one, or many passes over the same area, and is highly customizable in terms of both displacement, static- and dynamic-load behavior. Within the nanomechanical testing system, in-situ images and profiles are generated, allowing instantaneous detection of sample damage in response to the wearing probe. The resulting damage pattern, as well as metrics of the applied force, probe displacement, and environmental conditions are all analyzed to yield conclusions about the mechanical wear resistance of the sample volume.

Wear-box testing is distinct from nano-indent and nano-scratch in that it involves a full 3D volumetric profile, and a scanning area across a full 2D analytical domain.

Application Areas for Nano-Wear Testing

Nanomechanical wear testing is a highly flexible technique able to accommodate many types of wear profile analysis and force experiments. It is most commonly used to characterize thin films and coatings at a nano-scale, as well as to analyze MEMS and NEMS, solar cells and photovoltaics, and miscellaneous optical and electrical components.

Measurements from Nano-Wear Testing

  • Stiffness
  • Hardness
  • Modulus
  • Deformation under Strain


  • What it is great for:
    • Durability test for films down to ~1 nm 
    • Efficient data collection
    • Minimal sample preparation
  • Limitations:
    • Destructive
    • Not well suited for very-soft samples
    • Ultra-thin layers (< 10 nm) require more sophisticated procedures


Wear Image captured of a variety of wear-box volumes on a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating deposited on a CPU hard disk drive.
From Bruker.

Wear Image captured of 2 different wear volumes measured using distinct wear profile meethods in LaO coating.
From Bruker.

INSTRUMENTS we use for Nanomechanical
Wear 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.