Laboratory for Mechanics of Materials and Nanostructures

We investigate mechanical materials properties from the nano to macro-scale using experimental, analytical, and computational techniques. Current cutting edge research within European projects and the ETH competence center on high temperature materials focuses on micro- and nano- mechanical properties of materials (instrumentation, scale effects related to microstructure and physical dimension. For this purpose, we (a) develop metallic model materials either via electrodeposition in combination with UV- and electron beam lithography, nanoporous membranes and via focused electron or ion beam processing and (b) push resolution frontiers of materials microanalysis instrumentation, for instance of glow discharge based surface depth profiling and tip enhanced micro-Raman spectroscopy. We focus on solutions for Swiss SMEs to increase mechanical reliability, production efficiency, and lifespan of new materials and systems ranging from thin films, watch parts and solar cells to power plant components.

Materials Mechanics and Nanomechanics

Macroscopically mechanical properties are dominated by a statistical distribution of defects with characteristic length scales like size and distribution of flaws in brittle fracture (100mm), or dislocation interdistance in metal plasticity (100nm). As dimensions are scaled down below the characteristic length, material properties become controlled by geometrical constraints. This includes physical device dimensions as well as microstructure length scales like grain size.

Nanostructuring of metals

Conventional optical lithographic techniques that form the basis of integrated-circuit chip fabrication can already be used to create sub-100 nm features, but requires huge investments. We explore new nanostructuring strategies for metals based on electrochemical and charged particle beam lithography techniques. On the one hand, electron and ion beam induced deposition is an attractive nanofabrication tool due to its capability of depositing structures of metallic material with nanoscale control of both size and placement.



Novel research in nanomechanics and nanostructuring requires specialised instrumentation, not all of which is available commercially. The microanalysis group within the Laboratory for Mechanics of Materials and Nanostructures has

  • glow discharge instruments which are used for (quantitative) chemical depth profiling with nanometer depth resolution and part per million level detection limits. We have both GD-OES and GD-TOFMS instruments.
  • a Raman microscope, capable of also using the surface-enhanced and tip-enhanced Raman effects (SERS and TERS respectively). This can be used for stress mapping on a sub-micron spatial scale.
  • a high spatial resolution Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (SIMS), integrated within a dual beam SEM-FIB instrument. This is used for chemical imaging (including depth profiles) on a smaller spatial scale than can be accessed by the glow discharge instruments.

Prof. Dr. Johann Michler
Head of laboratory

Phone: +41 58 765 6205


Multiscal Modelling of Meso-Bio-Nano (MBN) Systems with MBN Explorer & Studio

Prof. Andrey V. Solov'voy
MBN Research Center

Date: 12. March 20, 2:00 p.m.
Venue: Empa Thun

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