Substrate effects on the measurement of thin film mechanical properties by nanoindentation methods have been studied experimentally using a model soft film on hard substrate system: aluminum on glass. The hardness and elastic modulus of aluminum films with thicknesses of 240, 650, and 1700 nm sputter-deposited on glass were systematically characterized as a function of indenter penetration depth using standard nanoindentation methods. Scanning electron and atomic force microscopy of the hardness impressions revealed that indentation pileup in the aluminum is significantly enhanced by the substrate. The substrate also affects the form of the unloading curve in a manner that has important implications for nanoindentation data analysis procedures. Because of these effects, nanoindentation measurement techniques overestimate the film hardness and elastic modulus by as much as 100% and 50%, respectively, depending on the indentation depth. The largest errors occur at depths approximately equal to the film thickness.
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