The mechanical integrity of high-performance materials is vital to their ultimate success or failure. Characterization of mechanical properties is becoming more of a challenge as the complexity of these materials increases and the size scale of individual components decreases below the submicron level. Hence, bulk testing methods have become insufficient to fully characterize the mechanical properties of these complex materials, such as nanocomposites, multiphase materials, tribological coatings, biomaterials, and laminates. Given the breadth of complex materials research conducted at North Carolina State University (NCSU), an essential need for the ability to quantitatively characterize the micro/nanomechanical properties of complex material systems has developed. We are requesting a state-of-the-art nanoindenter with an integrated atomic force microscope and an array of testing techniques. The instrument is a stand-alone test platform designed for the quantitative mechanical characterization of materials at the nanoscale. The nanoindenter will provide an essential link between nanoscopic and interfacial properties, and the bulk properties of complex material systems. The unique and diverse capabilities of the nanoindenter has brought together faculty from three different colleges at NCSU with research interests ranging from biolubrication to nanocrystalline alloys, thus guaranteeing access to a broad demographic of students. Through acquisition of a nanoindenter, diverse, new scientific and engineering challenges will be addressable.
In this acquisition proposal, we are requesting a state-of-the-art nanoindenter to improve the educational and research capabilities in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. The instrument is a stand-alone test platform for the quantitative characterization of mechanical properties at the nanoscale (one billionth of a meter). The mechanical integrity of high-performance materials (such as composites, nanocrystalline materials, biomaterials, etc.) is vital to their ultimate success or failure. Characterization of the mechanical properties of such materials is becoming more and more challenging as the complexity of these materials increases and the size of the individual components decreases. While traditional bulk testing methods have become insufficient to fully characterize modern, high-tech materials, the nanoindenter will provide an essential link between the nano/microscopic properties and the bulk properties of these complex materials. The addition of this instrument is expected to impact both the relevance and the sophistication of graduate and undergraduate student research. With this instrument, we have a unique opportunity to impact the quality of education for a large number of students (over one hundred students are currently mentored by the sixteen primary users from three different colleges at North Carolina State University) by teaching them about (1) the importance of nanoscale properties, (2) the nanoindenter's cutting-edge capabilities to enhance their research, and (3) offering the students hands-on experience. Additionally, the research institutions in the Research Triangle area do not have access to the advanced nanoindentation capabilities of the proposed instrument, therefore making it an invaluable tool for materials research in North Carolina.