Nanoindentation (NI)

Nanoindentation (NI) provides mechanical properties from precise compliance measurements for contacts, where a probe is pushed into a solid, while the penetration depth is recorded simultaneously with near-atomic resolution. This capability can reduce the probing volume down to an order of magnitude of 100 nm3, and which allows to use continuum mechanical contact models to extract properties like hardness and modulus for thin films and constituents of microstructures. The contact geometries and testing methods are configurable, so that mechanical characterization can be extended to e.g. brittle properties, adhesion, stress-strain, scratch, wear or structural stiffness of microstructures.

What is the use of Nanoindentation?

    • Quick assessment of wafers or thin films on wafers during quality control
    • Investigation of effects during process development (e.g. PVD, CVD) in semiconductor device fabrication
    • Simulation of contact conditions observable in practical use-cases for failure analysis
    • Mapping spatial distribution of mechanical characteristics on multi-phase materials
    • Studying deformation mechanisms (elasticity, plasticity, brittle behavior or phase-transformation)
    • Accurate assessment of structural compliance of microstructures and particles
    • Gaining highly localized insights into stress-strain relationship of a material
    • Studying adhesion properties on surface and thin film interfaces
    • Obtaining accurate mechanical property values for input into physical modeling (e.g. finite element- or analytical analysis)
    • Assessment of viscous material properties through Creep- and Relaxation testing as well dynamical mechanical analysis on the nanoscale


Ideal uses
  • Quantitative mechanical characterization of highly-localized material properties, including hardness, elastic modulus, fracture toughness, creep, topography
  • Obtaining other material characteristics, including storage- and loss-modulus from dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) on nano-scale, thin film adhesion, wear, friction and structural compliance
Technical specifications

Control modes: Force, Displacement
Useable Min./Max. Load: <5 nN / >10mN
Useable Noise-floor/Max. Displacement: <0.1 nm / >20 um
Controllable oscillator drive frequency: 1 – 300 Hz
Specimen holders: Vacuum, Magnetic, Gravity, mechanical clamping
Probes: Conical, Flat, Berkovich, Cube, custom sizes and shapes

Advanced loading techniques

Quasi-static indentation:

  • Trapezoid
  • Multiple partial unloading
  • Stiction
  • Creep
  • Grid

Dynamic indentation:

  • Variable load
  • Variable frequency
  • Continuous stiffness
  • Modulus mapping


  • Constant load
  • Progressive load
  • Tilt corrected multi-pass

In-situ imaging:

  • Contact mode
  • (Scanning-) wear
  • Accurate test positioning on features of few-100 nm size
  • Quantitative characterization of thin films
  • Wafers up to 6-in analyzed intact
  • Dry and liquid environment
  • Cross-section analysis (including in-house preparation)
  • Numerous non-indentation applications, which are solely custom-designed around precise control and measurement of force and displacement in mixed-load-conditions at small scales
  • Bulk specimen size limitations 4x2x2 inches
  • Thin film measurements under 10 nm thickness should be considered semi-quantitative
  • Potential problems with extremely rough surfaces

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