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How to avoid substrate effect on nanoindeation hardness measurement of thin film

I am a new guy in mechanical properties of thin film. My research is conducting hardness measurement of sputter thin film by nanoindeation. However, the thickness of thin film of my research is always sub-micron, say 500nm. As far as I know, if the indetation depth is less than 100nm, there would be the so-called indentation size effect and the hardness extracted there may not be accurate. And there is also substrate effect, which says that the hardness should extracted at lease one-tenth of the film to avoid substrate effect. Therefore, the "size effect" and "substrate effect" seem to be a paradox.

How could I obtain the intrinsic hardenss of thim film(500nm) by nanoindentation? Any suggestions and relevant paper?My e-mail box is 

Your help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!~


Xiaodong Li's picture

Thanks for posting this interesting topic.

In addition to the rule  of one-tenth or one-third, one needs to consider other factors, such as hard coating on soft substrate, soft coating on hard substrate or microstructural difference in the coating along the growth direction. There are a lot of papers published on this topic. The following two papers may help you to start with. 

Bharat Bhushan and Xiaodong Li, "Nanomechanical Characterization of Solid Surfaces and Thin Films," International Materials Review, 48 (2003) 125-164.

Xiaodong Li and Bharat Bhushan, "A Review of Nanoindentation Continuous Stiffness Measurement Technique and Its Applications," Materials Characterization, 48 (2002) 11-36.


Li Han's picture

More discussion on this topic can be found in a recent paper and references therein.

Li Han

Thanks very much. Any other ideas on this topic from other guys?

PS: This is a soft film on a hard substrate, for example, metallic alloys on wafer.

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