Journal of Materials Research


Measurement of hardness and elastic modulus by instrumented indentation: Advances in understanding and refinements to methodology

W.C. Olivera1 and G.M. Pharra2 c1

a1 MTS Systems Corporation, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 37830

a2 The University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996


The method we introduced in 1992 for measuring hardness and elastic modulus by instrumented indentation techniques has widely been adopted and used in the characterization of small-scale mechanical behavior. Since its original development, the method has undergone numerous refinements and changes brought about by improvements to testing equipment and techniques as well as from advances in our understanding of the mechanics of elastic–plastic contact. Here, we review our current understanding of the mechanics governing elastic–plastic indentation as they pertain to load and depth-sensing indentation testing of monolithic materials and provide an update of how we now implement the method to make the most accurate mechanical property measurements. The limitations of the method are also discussed.

(Received June 15 2003)

(Accepted September 23 2003)

Key Words:

  • Nanoindentation;
  • Hardness;
  • Mechanical properties


c1 This author was an editor of this focus issue during the review and decision stage. For the JMR policy on review and publication of manuscripts authored by editors, please refer to