Effects of substrate on determination of hardness of thin films by nanoscratch and nanoindentation techniques Academic Article uri icon


  • A comparative study on the effects of the substrate on the determination of hardness of thin films by the use of the nanoscratch and nanoindentation techniques was conducted. Gold films deposited on fused quartz substrates and silicon dioxide films deposited on aluminum substrates with variant film thicknesses were investigated. These two systems correspond to a soft film on a hard substrate and a hard film on a soft substrate, respectively. The effect of substrate interaction on the measurement of hardness using the nanoscratch technique was found to be less pronounced compared to that of the nanoindentation technique due to: (i) the lower normal loads applied to achieve the penetration depths that occur at higher loads when using the nanoindentation method; (ii) the direct imaging of the residual deformation profile that is used in the nanoscratch technique, which allows for the effects of pileup or sink-in to be taken into account, whereas in the nanoindentation technique the contact area is estimated from the load-displacement data, which does not include such effects; and (iii) the account of elastic recovery of the plastically deformed surfaces from scratch tests. The film thickness did not appear to have any effect on the hardness of Au and SiO2 films obtained from nanoscratch data. This observation allowed, for the case of SiO2 films, the determination of the "free substrate effect region" and the derivation of an empirical relationship that relates the composite hardness of the film/substrate system to the contact-depth-to-film-thickness ratio, even when the indenter penetrates into the substrate. Such findings can allow for the determination of the intrinsic hardness of ultrathin hard films (∼1-5 nm thick), where the substrate effect is unavoidable. © 2004 Materials Research Society.

author list (cited authors)

  • Tayebi, N., Polycarpou, A. A., & Conry, T. F.

citation count

  • 48

publication date

  • June 2004