Journal of Materials Research


Determination of indenter tip geometry and indentation contact area for depth-sensing indentation experiments

K. W. McElhaneya1, J. J. Vlassaka1 and W. D. Nixa1

a1 Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305


The phenomena of pile-up and sink-in associated with nanoindentation have been found to have large effects on the measurements of the indentation modulus and hardness of copper. Pile-up (or sink-in) leads to contact areas that are greater than (or less than) the cross-sectional area of the indenter at a given depth. These effects lead to errors in the absolute measurement of mechanical properties by nanoindentation. To account for these effects, a new method of indenter tip shape calibration has been developed; it is based on measurements of contact compliance as well as direct SEM observations and measurements of the areas of large indentations. Application of this calibration technique to strain-hardened (pile-up) and annealed (sink-in) copper leads to a unique tip shape calibration for the diamond indenter itself, as well as to a material parameter, a, which characterizes the extent of pile-up or sink-in. Thus the shape of the indenter tip and nature of the material response are separated in this calibration method. Using this approach, it is possible to make accurate absolute measurements of hardness and indentation modulus by nanoindentation.

(Received September 26 1996)

(Accepted October 31 1997)