COLIN CUTHBERT / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY COLIN CUTHBERT / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Silicon hardness test. Coloured atomic force micrograph (AFM) of the results of a Berkovich nanoindentation, or hardness, test on a piece of silicon. A nanoindentation test is used for a very small volume of material. The test is carried out by pressing an indenter into the material to a known maximum load. A Berkovich tip is often used to make the indentation as its measurements are known to a high precision. The area of the indent is measured and then divided by the maximum load used to give the materials hardness. An atomic force microscope is used to study surfaces at an atomic level. An extremely fine spring-mounted probe is moved across the surface at a constant height. Any deflections are recorded and converted into a computer map of the surface.
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