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Evolution of Contact Area and Pile-Up During The Nanoindentation of Soft Coatings on Hard Substrates

  • N. X. Randall (a1) and C. Julia-Schmutz (a1)

The mechanical properties of thin films can be measured by a variety of different techniques, with nanoindentation being one of the most recent developments in this growing field. By using a depth-sensing indentation method it is possible to obtain quantitative values for the hardness and modulus, and thus gain better insight into the response of a material to controlled deformation at such small scales. However, previous work [1] has shown that the effects of pile-up, particularly in soft films deposited on hard substrates, can produce significant overestimation of the hardness and modulus due to an underestimation of the true contact area by common nanoindentation analysis procedures. By measuring the topography of the residual indent using Scanning Force Microscopy (SFM) and combining this information with the indentation data, it is possible to gain a fuller understanding of the indentation method and its effects on the material being tested. In addition, the true contact area can be directly measured from the SFM images and subsequently used to calculate the hardness of the material more accurately. Experimental results are presented for a selection of soft films on hard substrates where SFM analysis of indentations at varying depths gives significant additional information concerning the true response of the system to instrumented indentation at a nanometric scale. Pile-up effects can be precisely monitored as a function of depth and correlated to hardness variations encountered across the coating/substrate interface.

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  • EISSN: 1946-4274
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