Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Engineering (DEng)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Chemical and Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Fuqian Yang


Piezoelectric materials in the forms of both bulk and thin-film have been widely used as actuators and sensors due to their electromechanical coupling. The characterization of piezoelectric materials plays an important role in determining device performance and reliability. Instrumented indentation is a promising method for probing mechanical as well as electrical properties of piezoelectric materials.

The use of instrumented indentation to characterize the properties of piezoelectric materials requires analytical relations. Finite element methods are used to analyze the indentation of piezoelectric materials under different mechanical and electrical boundary conditions.

For indentation of a piezoelectric half space, a three-dimensional finite element model is used due to the anisotropy and geometric nonlinearity. The analysis is focused on the effect of angle between poling direction and indentation-loading direction on indentation responses.

For the indentation by a flat-ended cylindrical indenter, both insulating indenter and conducting indenter without a prescribed electric potential are considered. The results reveal that both the indentation load and the magnitude of the indentation-induced potential at the contact center increase linearly with the indentation depth.

For the indentation by an insulating Berkovich indenter, both frictionless and frictional contact between the indenter and indented surface are considered. The results show the indentation load is proportional to the square of the indentation depth, while the indentation-induced potential at the contact center is proportional to the indentation depth.

Spherical indentation of piezoelectric thin films is analyzed in an axisymmetric finite element model, in which the poling direction is anti-parallel to the indentation-loading direction.

Six different combinations of electrical boundary conditions are considered for a thin film perfectly bonded to a rigid substrate under the condition of the contact radius being much larger than the film thickness. The indentation load is found to be proportional to the square of the indentation depth.

To analyze the decohesion problem between a piezoelectric film and an elastic substrate, a traction-separation law is used to control the interfacial behavior between a thin film and an electrically grounded elastic substrate. The discontinuous responses at the initiation of interfacial decohesion are found to depend on interface and substrate properties.