Analytical study of fundamental nanoindentation test relations for indenters for non-ideal shapes

Feodor M. Borodich*, Leon M. Keer, Chad S. Korach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Nanoindentation techniques provide a unique opportunity to obtain mechanical properties of materials of very small volumes. The load-displacement and load-area curves are the basis for nanoindentation tests, and their interpretation is usually based on the main assumptions of the Hertz contact theory and formulae obtained for ideally shaped indenters. However, real indenters have some deviation from their nominal shapes leading researchers to develop empirical 'area functions' to relate the apparent contact area to depth. We argue that for both axisymmetric and three-dimensional cases, the indenter shape near the tip can be well approximated by monomial functions of radius. In this case problems obey the self-similar laws. Using Borodich's similarity considerations of three-dimensional contact problems and the corresponding formulae, fundamental relations are derived for depth of indentation, size of the contact region, load, hardness, and contact area, which are valid for both elastic and non-elastic, isotropic and anisotropic materials. For loading the formulae depend on the material hardening exponent and the degree of the monomial function of the shape. These formulae are especially important for shallow indentation (usually less than 100 nm) where the tip bluntness is of the same order as the indentation depth. Uncertainties in nanoindentation measurements that arise from geometric deviation of the indenter tip from its nominal geometry are explained and quantitatively described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-808
Number of pages6
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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