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J Nanosci Nanotechnol. 2005 Jan;5(1):50-6.

Investigation of mechanical properties of diatom frustules using nanoindentation.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan 49931, USA.


Diatom frustules have been identified as potential candidate materials for nanotechnology applications. However, for successful engineering applications, their mechanical properties must be fully determined. Toward this end, indentation hardness and elastic properties frustules of the centric diatom Coscinodiscus concinnus were evaluated using nanoindentation. A series of nanoindentation tests were performed on the outer surfaces of frustules at various locations. Analysis of the indentations revealed that the Young's modulus and hardness values appear to be strongly dependent on the location of the indentation. The modulus varied from 0.591 to 2.768 GPa in the center and 0.347 to 2.446 GPa at locations away from the center. Similarly, frustule hardness varied between 0.033 and 0.116 GPa in the center and between 0.076 and 0.12 GPa away from the center. Another series of nanoindentation tests were performed on the frustules (positioned in both concave and convex orientations) at various locations to analyze the failure mode. It was found that the failure modes in each of the orientations were also drastically different. In convex orientation, cracks initiated along the sharp edges of the indentation were followed by circular ring cracks, whereas in concave orientation only cracks along the sharp edges (corresponding to the three edges of the indenter) were revealed. The porosity and the nonplanar nature of the frustules make it difficult to extract the mechanical properties accurately at each location.

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