A central goal of materials science is to reveal how a material deforms under mechanical stress and how the deformation is related to its microstructure. This goal is best achieved by “seeing” the evolving microstructure when the property is measured quantitatively. Mechanical testing methods have thus evolved over time to test materials at the micro- and nanoscale while observing the changes in the specimen. Recent advances in microtechnology offer a new generation of microscale sensors and actuators that allow in situ studies of both living and nonliving materials in analytical instruments. Such experiments are providing new and fundamental insights on the structure-property relations in materials and revealing remarkable links between the mechanical properties of living cells and their functions. This issue presents five articles that discuss state-of-the-art methodologies for in situ mechanical tests and highlights new findings through the use of these techniques.
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