Journal of Materials Research


An in situ electrical measurement technique via a conducting diamond tip for nanoindentation in silicon

S. Ruffella1 c1, J.E. Bradbya1, J.S. Williamsa1 and O.L. Warrena2

a1 Department of Electronic Materials Engineering, Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia

a2 Hysitron Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55344


An in situ electrical measurement technique for the investigation of nanoindentation using a Hysitron Triboindenter is described, together with details of experiments to address some technical issues associated with the technique. Pressure-induced phase transformations in silicon during indentation are of particular interest but are not fully understood. The current in situ electrical characterization method makes use of differences in electrical properties of the phase-transformed silicon to better understand the sequence of transformations that occur during loading and unloading. Here, electric current is measured through the sample/indenter tip during indentation, with a fixed or variable voltage applied to the sample. This method allows both current monitoring during indentation and the extraction of current-voltage (I-V) characteristics at various stages of loading. The work presented here focuses on experimental issues that must be understood for a full interpretation of results from nanoindentation experiments in silicon. The tip/sample contact and subsurface electrical resistivity changes dominate the resultant current measurement. Extracting the component of contact resistance provides an extremely sensitive method for measuring the electrical properties of the material immediately below the indenter tip, with initial results from indentation in silicon showing that this is a very sensitive probe of subsurface structural and electrical changes.

(Received December 18 2005)

(Accepted April 28 2006)

Key Words:

  • Electrical properties;
  • Phase transformation;
  • Si


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