Nanoscale particles are playing an increasingly important role as a component in modern engineered products. For example, nanoparticles are often added to composites to augment the overall mechanical, optical, electronic, or thermal properties of a given materials system. With respect to mechanical properties, the small volume of material minimizes the overall concentration of defects that are responsible for strength limitations and initiation of deformation processes in bulk materials, resulting in a strength increase. Researchers in academia and industry alike continue to investigate ways to exploit these phenomena for materials used in the aerospace, electronics, and automotive industries.
In order to reliably predict and optimize the characteristics of a composite material, the individual properties of each component must be known. Nanoscale particles present a challenge for mechanical characterization, since the limited stress and strain capacity for an individual particle demands an extremely precise measurement device, as well as the ability to properly align the sensing equipment with an isolated particle. Leveraging the high resolution imaging capabilities of electron microscopes (SEM, TEM) allows such measurements to be conducted with confidence since the alignment can be verified prior to test initiation, and the testing outcomes can be scrutinized during and after the test.