Measurement of fracture toughness by nanoindentation methods: Recent advances and future challenges Academic Article uri icon


  • 2015 Elsevier Ltd. In this paper, we describe recent advances and developments for the measurement of fracture toughness at small scales by the use of nanoindentation-based methods including techniques based on micro-cantilever, beam bending and micro-pillar splitting. A critical comparison of the techniques is made by testing a selected group of bulk and thin film materials. For pillar splitting, cohesive zone finite element simulations are used to validate a simple relationship between the critical load at failure, the pillar radius, and the fracture toughness for a range of material properties and coating/substrate combinations. The minimum pillar diameter required for nucleation and growth of a crack during indentation is also estimated. An analysis of pillar splitting for a film on a dissimilar substrate material shows that the critical load for splitting is relatively insensitive to the substrate compliance for a large range of material properties. Experimental results from a selected group of materials show good agreement between single cantilever and pillar splitting methods, while a discrepancy of 25% is found between the pillar splitting technique and double-cantilever testing. It is concluded that both the micro-cantilever and pillar splitting techniques are valuable methods for micro-scale assessment of fracture toughness of brittle ceramics, provided the underlying assumptions can be validated. Although the pillar splitting method has some advantages because of the simplicity of sample preparation and testing, it is not applicable to most metals because their higher toughness prevents splitting, and in this case, micro-cantilever bend testing is preferred.

published proceedings

  • Current Opinion in Solid State and Materials Science

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Sebastiani, M., Johanns, K. E., Herbert, E. G., & Pharr, G. M.

citation count

  • 141

complete list of authors

  • Sebastiani, M||Johanns, KE||Herbert, EG||Pharr, GM

publication date

  • December 2015