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A critical appraisal of nanoindentation with application to elastic-plastic solids and soft materials


Poon, Poh Chieh Benny (2009) A critical appraisal of nanoindentation with application to elastic-plastic solids and soft materials. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology.


This study examines the accuracy of the extracted elastic properties using nanoindentation. Since the conventional method to extract these properties utilizes Sneddon’s elastic solution, this study first considers indentations of linearly elastic solids for direct comparison. The study proposes a criterion for a converged specimen’s geometry and modifies Sneddon’s equation to account for the finite tip radius and specimen compressibility effects. A composite correction factor is derived to account for the violations of the underlying assumptions behind Sneddon’s derivation. This factor is a function of indentation depth, and a critical depth is derived beyond which the finite tip radius effect will be insignificant. Techniques to identify the radius of curvature of the indenter and to decouple the elastic constants for linear elastic materials are proposed. Experimental results on nanoindentation of natural latex are reported and discussed in light of the proposed modified relation and techniques.

The second part of the study examines the accuracy of the extracted material properties in elastic-plastic nanoindentations. The study establishes that the accurate determination of the projected area of contact, A, is crucial. However, the conventional method to determine A is largely limited to elastic materials, hence a new electrical resistance method is proposed to measure A for elastic-plastic materials. With an accurate A, the error associated with the extracted elastic material properties is reduced by more than 50% in some cases. This error remains to be a function of the material’s Poisson’s ratio, which is identified to influence the amount of residual stresses at the plastic imprint.

Finally, this study examines the accuracy of the extracted material properties in the nanoindentation of soft materials using an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). The effects of cantilever stiffness, preload, and surface interaction forces are observed to influence the measurements. Three set of experiments were performed to decouple these effects. The effect of a preload resembles a shift of nanoindentation load-displacement curve, while the cantilever stiffness is observed to have significant influence on the measurement of the surface forces. Lastly, a novel technique to account for these effects is proposed, in order to accurately extract the material properties of interest.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:correction factor; elastic modulus; elastic solids; elastic-plastic solids; finite elements; mechanics; nanoindentation; soft materials
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Thesis Availability:Mixed availability, specified at file level
Research Advisor(s):
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami
Thesis Committee:
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami (chair)
  • Daraio, Chiara
  • Rittel, Daniel
  • Bhattacharya, Kaushik
  • Lapusta, Nadia
Defense Date:12 September 2008
Author Email:bennyp (AT)
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-09162008-023546
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:3567
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:22 Oct 2008
Last Modified:26 Dec 2012 03:00

Thesis Files

PDF (BPoon_Thesis_final.pdf) - Final Version
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