Indentation deformation and fracture of thin polystyrene films

Min Li, Manuel L. Palacio, C. Barry Carter, William W. Gerberich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Nanoindentation-induced deformation and fracture of thin polystyrene (PS) films on glass substrates were characterized using visible-light microscopy and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Two film thicknesses, 2 and 3.5 μm were studied. It was difficult to induce delamination in the 2-μm film while the 3.5-μm film delaminated easily under indentation loads of 150 mN and higher. AFM cross-section analysis of the deformation and fracture geometry revealed that the ratio of the delamination radius to contact radius was between 3 and 4. Analysis of the fracture surface on the glass side indicates that substrate cracking acts as a trigger for initiation and propagation of interfacial cracks. Crack-arrest marks and process-zone marks were also observed by AFM imaging. The interfacial fracture toughness, or practical work of adhesion, was evaluated following two methods based on the indentation-induced delamination and a process-zone analysis. The fracture toughness was found to be approximately 0.6 J/m2 for the 3.5-μm PS film on glass. AFM examination of the glass surface after indentation also showed fine flow lines around the indentation impression, indicating plastic deformation of glass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-183
Number of pages10
JournalThin Solid Films
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was initially supported by the Center for Interfacial Engineering at the University of Minnesota and subsequently by the Industrial Partnership for Research in Interfacial and Materials Engineering at the University of Minnesota.


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Indentation
  • Interfacial fracture
  • Polymer coatings


Dive into the research topics of 'Indentation deformation and fracture of thin polystyrene films'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this