Available student project - Solving the problem of how to measure a material harder than diamond

Research fields

Project details

Nanoindentation is a materials analysis technique for measuring the hardness of materials including films as thin as 100 nm.  Hardness is not a fundamental material property but a critical one that must be experimentally measured rather than theoretically calculated.

Nanoindentation involves probing a sample with unknown properties using an indenter tip composed of a hard material. As diamond is the hardest material known in nature, indenter tips are usually made from diamond. In most measurements, the diamond tip is considered not to plastically (permanently) deform during the test. A challenge arises when attempting to measure very hard materials, approaching that of diamond, as the deformation of the indenter can no longer be considered negligible. Indeed, accurately measuring the hardness of materials that approach or surpass diamond's hardness in experiments remains a significant challenge in the field. 

This project will tackle this problem by investigating the deformation of indenter tips made from the same material as the samples. A number of different materials (both metals and ceramics) will be used to make tips and samples. A diamond tip will be first used to indent samples of all materials, then repeated using the self-fabricated tips. Complementing experimental investigations, the system will be modelled using finite element analysis.

Techniques involved:

[Experimental] A range of materials characterisation techniques will be used, including nanoindentation, electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy.

[Simulation] Finite element analysis

Required background

You would like to dig into fundamentals in materials science/physics, and would like to work as part of a wider national and international team.

Project suitability

This research project can be tailored to suit students of the following type(s)

Contact supervisor

Huang, Xingshuo profile

Other supervisor(s)

Bradby, Jodie profile