Journal of Materials Research


Novel technique for measuring the mechanical properties of porous materials by nanoindentation

Xi Chena1 c1, Yong Xianga2 and Joost J. Vlassaka2

a1 Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027-6699

a2 Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138-2901


A new technique for measuring the elastic-plastic properties of porous thin films by means of nanoindentation is proposed. The effects of porosity on indentation hardness and modulus are investigated through finite element analyses based on the Gurson model for plastic deformation of ductile porous materials. Intrinsic mechanical properties of the thin film are obtained by eliminating both substrate and densification effects. The technique is applied to the special case of a porous, low-permittivity dielectric thin film. The results are in good agreement with those obtained independently using the plane-strain bulge test.

(Received August 04 2005)

(Accepted December 08 2005)

(Online publication March 2006)

Key Words:

  • Film;
  • Hardness;
  • Porosity


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