Nanomechanical Property Measurement System - NanoTest Vantage from Micro Materials

The new NanoTest Vantage system from Micro Materials Ltd offers a range of mechanical tests on the nano-scale, allowing the researcher to build a complete picture of material performance.

Launched in June 2011, this system builds on the unique capabilities of the previous generation of NanoTest instruments, and has been optimised in terms of:

  • Performance
  • Speed of throughput
  • Ease of use

The fully automated NanoTest Vantage can work 24/7, allowing a range of samples to be mounted simultaneously. The instrument has been designed to allow ‘Mount-to-Measure’ in five minutes, ensuring operator time is minimised.

Measurement Techniques


  • Measure hardness, modulus, viscoelastic behaviour
  • Investigate variation of hardness, modulus with depth
  • Map mechanical properties across an area of interest
  • Quasi-static and dynamic testing available

Nano-impact and fatigue

  • Investigate fracture and fatigue behaviour
  • Measure material damping coefficients
  • Investigate high strain rate behaviour

Nano-scratch and wear

  • Assess critical scratch loads and friction properties
  • Investigate cycles to failure for wear prediction


  • Accelerated reciprocating wear test
  • Low contact pressure to allow high cycle investigations (up to 1 million cycles)

Control environmental conditions to assess true ‘in-service’ properties

Material properties can vary greatly in response to the local environmental properties. The NanoTest Vantage is the only instrument which allows researchers to characterise and optimise their materials under the following range of conditions:

  • High temperature nanoindentation, nanoscratch and nanoimpact to 750ºC
    Both sample and probe are heated to ensure isothermal contact
  • Low temperature nanoindentation and nanoscratch to -30ºC
    Both sample and probe are cooled to ensure stability
  • With sample and probe immersed in liquids
    A range of liquids can be used, compatible with nanoindentation and nanoscratch.
  • In reduced oxygen/ purged conditions
  • Under controlled humidity levels


The NanoTest is in use in the most prestigious laboratories and research institutes all over the globe. Focussing on cutting edge research, the instrument is used for the characterisation and optimisation of materials and coatings used in a range of applications such as:

  • Aerospace,
  • Automotive
  • Biomedical
  • Ceramics
  • Construction
  • Glasses
  • Metals and alloys
  • Microelectronics/ MEMS
  • Nuclear
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Polymers
  • Semi-conductors
  • Wear resistant coatings

Mechanisms of Nano-Scratch Tester


It is important to optimize thin films and coatings, measuring a few nm to about 1 µm thick, in the tribological performance and mechanical properties. This is usually executed by incorporating both scratch tests and indentation. Standard scratch test conditions are not suitable for such materials as they were produced for examining thicker coatings. The nano-scratch and wear module is considered to be best suited instead.

How it Works

The sample to be analyzed is placed perpendicular to the scratch probe, and the contact is either ramped or kept constant at a user-defined rate (Figure 1). Throughout the testing process, the frictional or tangential load and the probe penetration depth are constantly observed. It is possible to carry out single and multi-pass tests. Multi-pass tests permit the examination of micro-wear and nano-wear.

Figure 1. Ramped scratches to 500 mN show brittle fracture of 1.5 µm TiFeN films on Si at high load.

The nano-scratch and wear module has a wide range of applications in tribological coatings, polymer/biomaterial, microelectronics, and optical industries. The module is available as an option for the NanoTest Vantage platform or as a stand-alone instrument (nano-scratch tester).

Ramped Scratch, Corrected for Baseline Sample Topography

Figure 2 depicts a scratch test with 3 µm end radius probe scanning across a 150 µm track at a 2 µm/s scan speed. An ultra-low contact force was used to execute a pre-scratch scan to analyze baseline sample topography. The red line indicates the on-load probe depth, representing plastic and elastic depth. The load is increased at 2.5 mN/s after 20 µm. The black line indicates the residual (plastic) depth after the removal of the scratch load. This has been altered for initial sample topography. Friction measurements are then performed throughout the entire process.

Figure 2. A scratch test with 3 µm end radius probe scanning over a 150 µm track at a scan speed of 2 µm/s.

Micro-scratch Tester

Micro-scratch as well as micro-wear testing can be performed using a 20 N load range micro-scratch tester. Friction measurements are performed throughout the entire process.

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