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Electric contact resistance (ECR) by indentation, scratch and tribology

The increased use of electronic contact components in many industrial and research areas in the last few decades has generated a large interest in characterization of the contact conditions. With the ever continuing miniaturization of the contact areas, new techniques have to be employed to investigate the local electric contact properties. The nanoindentation technique is an ideal tool for such investigation of electric contact resistance (ECR); the electric contact characteristics can also be obtained by scratch and tribology methods.

The instrumented indentation is nowadays well established and a routinely applied technique. It found its use in many areas ranging from development of new types of surface coatings (tools, protective, decorative), electronics, polymers and new advanced materials. Characterization of adhesion and scratch resistance of many coatings is often performed by scratch testing. In a scratch test, a diamond tip is drawn across the surface of the coating to generate adhesive failure. Both instrumented indentation (IIT) and scratch testing are now well mastered and used in research applications and quality control.

Both methods (instrumented indentation and scratch testing) yield important information about the tested materials: the IIT yields indentation hardness (HIT), elastic modulus (EIT), creep and other important elastic-plastic characteristics of materials. The scratch testing characterizes the adhesion of coatings on substrate or scratch resistance of coated or bulk materials. Both methods can therefore be used on either coated or non-coated materials.

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