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Indentation: A widely used technique for measuring mechanical properties

Indentation is one of the most widely used techniques of measuring mechanical properties of materials, especially for materials of small volume. In micro- or nano- scales, performing traditional tests such as the tension test and bending test becomes less feasible because of the nontrivial task of sample preparation. In contrast, by using the indentation technique, the difficulty of sample preparation may be dramatically reduced. On the other hand, indentation test is not a direct measurement and advanced mechanics analysis is needed to correlate the material properties with the indentation response. 

In an indentation test, a hard tip is pressed into a sample. The tip can be sharp or spherical. After the tip is removed, an impression is left. The hardness is defined as the indentation load divided by the projected area of impression. Moreover, by means of instrumental indentation testers, the indentation load and indentation depth can be continuously and simultaneously measured. Many models have been developed to extract the material properties from the recorded indentation load-depth curve, including the elastic modulus, yield stress, strain hardening coefficient, residual stress, fracture toughness, etc. 

Nowadays, indentation tests have received a lot of applications: indentation on bulk materials, on thin film/substrate systems, and on materials with micro- or nano- structures. Apart from measuring properties of metals, indentation is also used to probe the properties of visco-elasto-plastical materials. 

My work is in the indentation area and its novel applications. At Columbia, I have authored/co-authored 9 journal papers in this area (more are coming) and I will post some details of them in the follow-up posts. My work is sponsored by NSF.


Could you please post references to your papers?



Thank you for your interest. My selected publications are listed below and discussions are welcome.

1. Xi Chen, Nagahisa Ogasawara, Manhong Zhao, Norimasa Chiba, On the uniqueness of measuring elastoplastic properties from indentation: the indistinguishable mystical materials. Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 2007. in press. You may also refer to discussion at <>
2. Manhong Zhao, Xi Chen, Nagahisa Ogasawara, Anghel Constantin Razvan, Norimasa Chiba, Dongyun Lee, Yong X. Gan, New sharp indentation method of measuring the elastic-plastic properties of compliant and soft materials using the substrate effect. Journal of Materials Research, 2006. 21(12): p. 3134-3151.
3. Manhong Zhao, Xi Chen, Jin Yan, Anette M. Karlsson, Determination of Uniaxial Residual Stress and Mechanical Properties by Instrumented Indentation. Acta Materialia, 2006. 54: p. 2823-2832.
4. Manhong Zhao, Nagahisa Ogasawara, Norimasa Chiba, Xi Chen, A New Approach to Measuring the Elastic-plastic Properties of Bulk Materials with Spherical Indentation. Acta Materialia, 2006. 54: p. 23-32.

ennio curto's picture


 Dear Manhong Zhao

I have a big dubbs than with this system you measure the residual stress in the metals,

 The instrumentthan you need is difficult to explain portable. The test result destructive becouse the loads apllied are enought hight.An other thing you can have the conpressive or tesnsile value of residual stress,Defenetly your instrumentation is good for measure the hardness and the elasic modules (Young's module) but don't resolve the residual stress mesurement NDT portable instrument and with batteries and not eletric cable than need a sorgent. Nothing new.

Best REgards

Ennio Curto

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