Sample boundary effect in nanoindentation of nano and microscale surface structures

J Lian and JL Wang and YY Kim and J Greer, JOURNAL OF THE MECHANICS AND PHYSICS OF SOLIDS, 57, 812-827 (2009).

DOI: 10.1016/j.jmps.2009.01.008

Nanoindentation is a widely used technique to characterize mechanical properties of materials in small volumes. When the sample size is comparable to the indent size, the indentation-induced plastic zone can be affected by the sample boundary which may cause inaccurate interpretation of the mechanical properties. In this study, the sample boundary effect is investigated by performing experiments and atomistic simulations of nanoindentation into nano- and micro-scale Au pillars and bulk Au (001) surfaces. In experiments, a more compliant deformation is observed in pillar indentations compared to bulk Au. The elastic modulus decreases with increasing indent size over sample size ratio. Atomistic simulations are performed to gain insights on the mechanisms of pillar deformation and pillar boundary effect. The reduced modulus has a similar trend of decrease with increasing indent size over sample size ratio. Significantly different dislocation activities and dislocation interactions with the pillar boundary contribute to the lower value of the reduced modulus in the pillar indentation. The presence of the free surface would allow the dislocations to annihilate, causing a higher plastic recovery during the pillar unloading process. (c) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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