Nanometer-resolved quantification of mechanical response in nanoparticle-based composites
Nanocomposites constitute an upcoming class of materials that has enormous potential within a broad range of areas, particularly with regard to mechanical applications. However, the tuning of material properties requires a full understanding of the mechanical response of the nanocomposite across all length scales. While characterization from the micro to macroscale is well established at this point, quantification of mechanical behavior at the nanoscale is still an unresolved challenge. With this background, the current work demonstrates the capabilities of quantitative contact resonance atomic force microscopy (CR-AFM) to localize and reliably characterize Ni nanoparticles that are embedded below the surface of thermally oxidized silicon thin films. Correlating these results with numerical simulations as well as high-resolution transmission electron microscopy measurements provides a comprehensive understanding of the subtle interplay between the structure and nanomechanical response of the composite.