Nanoindentation is a versatile experimental tool for materials characterization that uses diamond indenters into the surfaces of materials to assess mechanical properties including hardness, modulus, toughness, creep, wear, and damping. Nanoindentation has the ability to make measurements at length scales ranging continuously between about 10 nm and 1 mm. It also has the ability to rapidly and precisely place thousands of measurements for probing internal structure of bulk specimens. For these reasons nanoindentation has become an indispensable tool for research in fields ranging from Medicine to Engineering to Biology, Geology, Chemistry, and Engineering Physics. The Materials Science Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison is designated to house this nanoindenter for access by researchers across campus and at other institutions, both private and public. Immediate outcomes of the proposed studies include novel materials with the designed friction, adhesion and wear; stronger and safer materials in nuclear, mechanical and electronics applications; biomaterials to be used in regenerative and therapeutic medicine fields, and early prediction of the strength of earthquake faults. Besides serving research, this nanoindenter is expected to aid the teaching mission of the University by providing a user-friendly testing platform to be employed in undergraduate and graduate education. The research team also plans to organize workshops and teach graduate courses on nanoindentation to expand the use of the nanoindenter among various research groups in the university and in 13 local industry partners. Finally, the research team is committed to disseminate educational resources on nanoindentation to facilitate broader participation of K-12 audiences to fundamental scientific and engineering concepts on nanoindentation.

Technical Abstract

Characterization of fundamental strength and deformation mechanisms in most of today?s demanding materials systems requires multiscale investigation. Automated advanced nanoindentation and scratch experiments are suited for this challenging task due to their high spatial resolution and throughput. Acquisition and utilization of an advanced automated nanoindenter to the University of Wisconsin, Madison is the scope of this project. Specific research activities to be enhanced and enabled by the automated nanoindenter are: micro/nanomechanics and tribology of thin films, 2D materials, coatings and interfaces; strength and deformation mechanisms in composites, and deformation mechanisms and structure of metallic glasses and alloys; influence of radiation, laser, and plasma treatments on materials microstructure and strength; nanomechanical characterization of biomaterials including bone, cartilage and skin, and mechanical effects of geological heterogeneity. To accomplish these broad range of research activities, the nanoindenter based system is equipped with modules for dynamic mechanical analysis; extended travel stage and fluorescence microscope for soft/biomaterials; high load transducer for tribology applications; acoustic emission monitoring; nanoscale electromechanical characterization; high-resolution mechanical property mapping; high temperature stage, and ultra-low force mechanical characterization. This compact and all-in-one configuration is expected to expand present research capabilities of 21 research groups, over 60 graduate, 20 undergraduate students, and 10 postdoctoral researchers and open entirely new avenues of materials science research including the design of novel materials in industrial, nuclear, biomedical and geological applications.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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Leonard Spinu
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University of Wisconsin Madison
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