Journal of Materials Research


Nanoindentation analysis as a two-dimensional tool for mapping the mechanical properties of complex surfaces

Nicholas X. Randalla1 c1, Matthieu Vandammea1b) and Franz-Josef Ulma2

a1 CSM Instruments, Needham, Massachusetts 02494

a2 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139


Instrumented indentation (referred to as nanoindentation at low loads and low depths) has now become established for the single point characterization of hardness and elastic modulus of both bulk and coated materials. This makes it a good technique for measuring mechanical properties of homogeneous materials. However, many composite materials are composed of material phases that cannot be examined in bulk form ex situ (e.g., carbides in a ferrous matrix, calcium silicate hydrates in cements, etc.). The requirement for in situ analysis and characterization of chemically complex phases obviates conventional mechanical testing of large specimens representative of these material components. This paper will focus on new developments in the way that nanoindentation can be used as a two-dimensional mapping tool for examining the properties of constituent phases independently of each other. This approach relies on large arrays of nanoindentations (known as grid indentation) and statistical analysis of the resulting data.

(Received July 30 2008)

(Accepted December 11 2008)

Key Words:

  • Elastic properties;
  • Hardness;
  • Nanoindentation


c1 Address all correspondence to this author. e-mail:


b) Current address: Université Paris-Est, Ecole des Ponts, UR Navier, 77455 Champs-sur-Marne, France