Nanoindentation of soft films on hard substrates: Experiments and finite element simulations Conference Paper uri icon


  • Experiments and finite element simulations have been performed to examine errors in the measurement of hardness and elastic modulus caused by pile-up when soft films deposited on hard substrates are tested by nanoindentation methods. Pile-up is exacerbated in soft-film/hard-substrate systems by the constraint imposed on plastic deformation in the film by the relatively non-deformable substrate. To experimentally examine pile-up effects, soft aluminum films with thicknesses of 240, 650, and 1700 nm were deposited on hard soda-lime glass substrates and tested by nanoindentation techniques. This system is attractive because the elastic modulus of the film and the substrate are approximately the same, but the substrate is harder than the film by a factor of about ten. Consequently, substrate influences on the indentation load-displacement behavior are manifested primarily by differences in the plastic flow characteristics alone. The elastic modulus of the film/substrate system, as measured by nanoindentation techniques, exhibits an increase with indenter penetration depth which peaks at a value approximately 30% greater than the true film modulus at a penetration depth close to the film thickness. Finite element simulation shows that this unusual behavior is caused by substrate-induced enhancement of pile-up. Finite element simulation also shows that the amount of pile-up increases with increasing penetration depth, and that the pile-up geometry depends on the work-hardening characteristics of the film. Because of these effects, nanoindentation techniques overestimate the true film hardness and elastic modulus by as much as 68% and 35%, respectively, depending on the work-hardening behavior of the film and the indenter penetration depth. The largest errors occur in non-work-hardening materials at penetration depths close to the film thickness, for which substrate-induced enhancement of pile-up is greatest.

published proceedings

  • Materials Research Society Symposium - Proceedings

author list (cited authors)

  • Pharr, G. M., Bolshakov, A., Tsui, T. Y., & Hay, J. C.

complete list of authors

  • Pharr, GM||Bolshakov, A||Tsui, TY||Hay, JC

publication date

  • January 1998