MRS Bulletin

Technical Feature

Technical Feature

Quantitative In Situ Mechanical Testing in Electron Microscopes

M. Legros, D.S. Gianola and C. Motz


This article is devoted to recent progress in the area of in situ electron microscopy (scanning and transmission) and will focus on quantitative aspects of these techniques as applied to the deformation of materials. Selected recent experiments are chosen to illustrate how these techniques have benefited from improvements ranging from sample preparation to digital image acquisition. Known for its ability to capture the underlying phenomena of plastic deformation as they occur, in situ electron microscopy has evolved to a level where fully instrumented micro- and nanomechanical tests can be performed simultaneously.

Marc Legros can be reached at the Centre d'Elaboration des Matériaux et d'Etudes Structurales, 29 rue Jeanne Marvig, 31055 Toulouse, France; tel. 33–562–257–842; and e-mail

Legros is a staff scientist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Toulouse. After studying the deformation mechanisms of Ti-based intermetallics for his PhD degree, Legros spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, focusing on the structure and mechanical properties of thin films and nanocrystalline metals. He was hired by CNRS at Laboratoire de Physique des Matériaux in Nancy, where he worked on the low-cycle fatigue of single-crystalline silicon. Since 2002, his current experimental research has addressed the whole field of small-scale plasticity, investigated mainly through in situ transmission electron microscopy.

Daniel S. Gianola can be reached at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, 3231 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; tel. 215–898–7974; and e-mail

Gianola joined the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania as a Skirkanich Assistant Professor in August 2009. He received a BS degree in engineering mechanics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his PhD degree from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining the University of Pennsylvania, Gianola was an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in Germany, where he specialized in research dealing with deformation at the micro- and nanoscale, particularly using in situ nanomechanical testing techniques.

Christian Motz can be reached at the Erich Schmid Institute of Material Science of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Jahnstrasse 12, A-8700 Leoben, Austria; tel. 43–3842–804–102; and e-mail

Motz is a staff scientist at the Erich Schmid Institute and a lecturer at the University of Leoben, Austria. He earned his diploma in materials science in 1998 and his doctoral degree in 2002, both from the University of Leoben. Motz also has worked as a research assistant at the Erich Schmid Institute and as a researcher at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany. His primary research activities are focused on the mechanical properties of metals, alloys, metallic foams, and the correlation with their microstructure. The activities with respect to the properties can be separated into plastic deformation, dislocation dynamics, mechanics in small dimensions, fracture and crack propagation, and mechanics of cellular solids. Motz's honors include the Rektor-Platzer-Ring of the University of Leoben for graduation with excellence (1998), the Professor Posselt'sche journey scholarship in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, UK (2000), and the Erwin Schrödinger Scholarship of the Austrian Science Fund for the University of Karlsruhe, Institut für Zuverlässigkeit von Bauteilen und Systemen, Germany (2006).