nanoindentation (rus. наноиндентирование otherwise индентирование) — a technique to test materials using indentation method (impressing a sample's surface with a special tool called indenter) applied to nanoscopic volumes of materials (thin films and coatings, micro- and nanostructures).


The indentation process involves impressing a test sample with an indenter that has specific mechanical properties, such as shape, elastic modulus , etc., with a certain force, followed by either examination of the shape and size of the contact area, or by plotting the load to an indenter position curve. The former requires simpler equipment, while the latter makes it possible to obtain more information on the material tested. Examination of the contact shape in the nanoscale implies the use of an atomic force microscope or scanning electron microscope, which is why nanoindentation almost always involves plotting the load/penetration curve.

Measuring the sample’s hardness employs standardised techniques and standardised indenters. The most common material strength tests include the Vickers hardness test, Brinell hardness test and Rockwell hardness test.

A load/penetration curve must be plotted to determine the elastic modulus using the indentation technique. The slope of the curve while unloading, i.e. reducing the applied force to zero, depends on the material’s elastic modulus. On the other hand, due to the increasing role of surface effects in the nanoscale, a comprehensive analysis of the influence of the plastic zone at the indenter tip and adhesion forces is not possible at the current level of technical development.

Identification of plastic and flow characteristics of a material through indentation requires both building the load/penetration curve and measuring the time dependence of these parameters.

Nanoindentation equipment must be manufactured and adjusted with high precision. Material tests are carried out in a fully isolated environment, because even the slightest temperature and atmospheric fluctuations may render the test results useless.


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Nanoscan 3D unit designed for material research using nanoscale indentation and scratching techniques.


  • Goryacheva Irina G.
  • Shpenеv Alexey G.


  1. Nanoindentation // Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia. — (reference date: 12.12.2011).
  2. Ignatovich S. R. et al. Determination of materials micromechanical surface characteristic using nanoindentometr "Micron-Gamma" // Vestnik Khar'kovskogo nac. avt.-dor. un-ta (in Russian). 2008. V. 42. 86–90 pp.