- Ultra-low load indentation, also known as nanoindentation, is a widely used tool for measuring the mechanical properties of thin films and small volumes of material. One of the great advantages of the technique is its ability to probe a surface and map its properties on a spatially resolved basis, sometimes with a resolution of better than 1 m. In this paper, techniques for measuring mechanical properties by ultra-low load indentation techniques are reviewed and discussed. Emphasis is given to the use of sharp indenters and how they can be used to measure elastic modulus, hardness, and fracture toughness. These fundamental mechanical properties characterize the three primary modes of deformation in solids - elasticity, plasticity, and fracture. 1998 Published by Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.