Nanoindentation has become a common technique for measuring the hardness and elastic-plastic properties of materials, including coatings and thin films. In recent years, different nanoindenter instruments have been commercialised and used for this purpose. Each instrument is equipped with its own analysis software for the derivation of the hardness and reduced Young's modulus from the raw data. These data are mostly analysed through the Oliver and Pharr method. In all cases, the calibration of compliance and area function is mandatory. The present work illustrates and describes a calibration procedure and an approach to raw data analysis carried out for six different nanoindentation instruments through several round-robin experiments. Three different indenters were used, Berkovich, cube corner, spherical, and three standardised reference samples were chosen, hard fused quartz, soft polycarbonate, and sapphire. It was clearly shown that the use of these common procedures consistently limited the hardness and reduced the Young's modulus data spread compared to the same measurements performed using instrument-specific procedures. The following recommendations for nanoindentation calibration must be followed: (a) use only sharp indenters, (b) set an upper cut-off value for the penetration depth below which measurements must be considered unreliable, (c) perform nanoindentation measurements with limited thermal drift, (d) ensure that the load-displacement curves are as smooth as possible, (e) perform stiffness measurements specific to each instrument/indenter couple, (f) use Fq and Sa as calibration reference samples for stiffness and area function determination, (g) use a function, rather than a single value, for the stiffness and (h) adopt a unique protocol and software for raw data analysis in order to limit the data spread related to the instruments (i.e. the level of drift or noise, defects of a given probe) and to make the H and E r data intercomparable.
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- Young's modulus