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Centre of Excellence of Multifunctional Architectured Materials
Direction de la Recherche
46 avenue Félix Viallet
38031 Grenoble Cedex 01
Centre of Excellence of Multifunctional Architectured Materials
Centre of Excellence of Multifunctional Architectured Materials

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Development and application of a characterisation tool based on the local probing of mechanical, electrical and microstructural properties

Updated on April 29, 2014
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Context :

The increasing demand for multifunctionality has become a recurring challenge for a wide panel of application fields : microelectronics, microsystems, energy harvesting, structural applications,… One of the tracks to answer these rising needs is a smart association of materials with tailored geometries. The complexity of these new materials requires the development of higher performance characterisation tools. In that purpose, a multifunctional characterisation instrument is currently developed in SIMaP lab, mainly based on electrical and mechanical coupling. This set-up is tailored for advanced characterisations at the sub-micrometer-scale of structural and functional materials displaying small-scale organisations.
The heart of this characterisation device is a nanoindenter (Figure 1), coupled with highly sensitive electrical test instruments. Such a coupling is both a technical challenge and a breakthrough in terms of local characterisation. This electrically-functionalised nanoindenter will also be integrated in-situ in a new state-of-the-art Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) equipped with EBSD (Electron Back Scattered Diffraction) and EDS (Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy) techniques (Figure 2).


PhD project

The PhD work will focus on both the development and the application of this state-of-the-art tool. Those two aspects will progress in parallel all along the 3 years.

Instrumental development (1/3 of the PhD time)

This characterisation tool is still under development. Thus the PhD student will participate to its set-up and optimization. In particular, the electrical functionalisation of the nanoindenter remains a challenging topic.

Material characterisation (2/3 of the PhD time)

All through the tool development, local mechanical and electrical characterisations will be carried out on dedicated materials (already available in the lab). As a starting point, some reference systems (gold nano-particles, aluminum thin films,…) will be used to assess the tool performances.

Then more complex materials (figure3) will be characterized, in-situ and/or ex-situ SEM. We expect our tool to enhance and refine the standard information usually extracted from nanoindentation tests (local stiffness, local hardness,…). The local nanoscale phenomena (taking place at the tip-to-sample interface) will also be discussed.

Required degrees and skills

Required degree

Master degree in “Materials science” or “Physics”.
Applications with Master degrees at the interface between “Instrumentation”/”System engineering” and “Materials science” will also be examined.

Material science and characterisation

A reliable formation in materials science is expected. General knowledge on materials mechanics would be beneficial, as well as a general knowledge on materials characterisation techniques.

Instrumental development

This part of the work will require good practical and technical skills. The ability to propose and assess “do-it-yourself” solutions will be essential.

Other skills

A high motivation for academic and applied research.
Good English skills.


This PhD is funded by the CEMAM labex ( ).
Net monthly salary : ~1400€.
Possibility to participate to Master-level teaching at the Université de Grenoble (especially at the Grenoble INP-Phelma engineering school). In that case, the net monthly salary reaches ~1650€.


Material science / Nanoindentation / Instrumentation / Electrical characterisation / Mechanical characterisation / Scanning Electron Microscopy


Fabien VOLPI
SIMAP / Phelma - Grenoble INP
tel : (+33) (0)4 76 82 66 13

SIMAP / Phelma - Grenoble INP
tel : (+33) (0)4 76 82 66 09

This project will take place at SIMAP lab ( ) in Grenoble (France).

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Date of update April 29, 2014

Université Grenoble Alpes