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Hardness, in depth
Date:7/30/2013

onment.

To avoid these effects, Smith and his team designed the PNP to measure hardness via the actual penetration depth of the indenter tip into the specimen. They did this by placing two tiny tuning forks on either side of the indenter tip that resonate at 32 kilohertz, well above the limit of human hearing. When the tips of the tuning forks approach the surface of the specimen being measured, they feel a slight attraction that subtly shifts their resonant frequency without causing any detectable deformation of the specimen surface. By sensing this shift, the machine continuously monitors the actual position of the tip relative to the specimen surfacea process known as "top referencing" or "surface referencing."

The improvements built into the PNP allow it to test properties beyond the reach of previous nanoindentation devices, said Smith. For example, the machine can measure whether a material responds to pressure by deforming slowly over long periods of time, a process known as viscoelastic creep. "I don't want to say it is the best instrument out there, but it has certain advantages that we really like," said Smith.

While the PNP is state-of-the-art, don't expect to see it available for purchase any time soon. "We love the PNP," said Smith, but he added that it would be expensive and cantankerous to operate in an industrial setting. Instead, NIST scientists plan to use the machine to create standard reference materials and reference data for industry. Commercial instrument owners can then use these materials to calibrate the machines they use to characterize nano-scale components or ultra-thin coatings.

And for the rest of us? We can look forward to a new generation of ever more precisely built consumer products.


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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jbardi@aip.org
240-535-4954
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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