Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Masters of Science (Research)


Applied Physics & Instrumentation

First Advisor

Liam McDonnell


Understanding solid surfaces and their properties is of crucial importance for many sectors of industry. This interest stems from the fact that solid surfaces are the working interface between a solid material and its environment and in many cases it is this interface which determines both the suitability and life span of a mechanical component. Furthermore the modification of surface properties using coatings and multi-layered materials has grown significantly, particularly in the case of data storage, optics and microelectronics. The demands of these and other sectors have provided the impetus for the development of material testing techniques applicable to coatings at the micro and nano scale. The advent of scanning probe microscopy (SPM) in the 1980s has provided an ideal platform on which the development of new material testing techniques can be based. SPM systems have surpassed conventional instruments in terms of resolution limits and are capable of measurements at the atomic scale. This thesis examines the use of SPM based techniques in the evaluation of surface properties such as roughness, hardness, wear, adhesion, adhesive force and friction. To fully investigate the feasibility of using scanning probe technologies for material testing at the microscale and nanoscale, a prototype multi-test instrument based on these principles was designed and constructed. Preliminary applications data obtained using this prototype are presented and demonstrate the potential for instruments of this type.


Submitted to the National Council for Educational Awards for the Degree of MSc.

July 1998

Access Level


Included in

Physics Commons