Great interests have been made over the last few years in the development of techniques to measure the mechanical properties of many engineering materials at the nano scale. In nano-indentation, a hard tip with known mechanical properties is pressed into a sample whose properties are unknown. The load, indentation depth and deformed area resulting from this test are then used to determine the desired mechanical properties, such as hardness and modulus. In this study, the computer-based finite element analysis (FEA) method is used to investigate factors effecting nano-indentation to ensure reliable measurement of thin film properties. First, the FEA method is used to predict the mechanical response of bulk aluminum (Al) using a spherical indenter. The numerical prediction is then compared with existing published results to validate the FEA modeling scheme. Once the model is validated, additional numerical analyses are conducted to investigate the response of Al-film deposited on different substrate materials. New mathematical formulations are proposed to determine the film modulus from nano-indentation test. The film modulus obtained from the new and existing mathematical formulations are also compared. Results obtained from this research can be used to characterize the mechanical properties of soft biological materials such as biofilm or tissue scaffolds.

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