Multiscale simulations of silicon nanoindentation

G. S. Smith, E. B. Tadmor, N. Bernstein, E. Kaxiras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Nanoindentation experiments are an excellent probe of micromechanical properties, but their interpretation is complicated by the multiple length scales involved. We report simulations of silicon nanoindentation, based on an extended version of the local quasicontinuum model, capable of handling complex crystal structures. This method embeds an interatomic force law within a finite element framework. We identify which features of the simulation are robust by investigating the effect of different interatomic force laws and different finite element meshes. We find that our simulations qualitatively reproduce the experimental load vs. displacement curves of indented silicon and provide information on the microscopic aspects of the phase transformations that take place during indentation. This information is linked to the macroscopic electrical resistance, providing a simple physical picture that gives a satisfactory explanation of experimental results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4089-4101
Number of pages13
JournalActa Materialia
Issue number19
StatePublished - Nov 14 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
It is a pleasure to acknowledge useful discussions with Michael J. Aziz, Michael Ortiz, Jim Sethna, Frans A. Spaepen, and Umesh V. Waghmare. This work was supported by Harvard's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, which is funded by the NSF.


  • Electrical properties (electronic conductivity)
  • Indentation
  • Mechanical properties (constitutive equations)
  • Semiconductors
  • Theory & modeling


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