A novel method for In Situ electromechanical characterization of nanoscale specimens

Russell C. Reid, Alberto Piqué, Wonmo Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Electrically assisted deformation (EAD) is increasingly being used to improve the formability of metals during processes such as sheet metal rolling and forging. Adoption of this technique is proceeding despite disagreement concerning the underlying mechanism responsible for EAD. The experimental procedure described herein enables a more explicit study compared to previous EAD research by removing thermal effects, which are responsible for disagreement in interpreting previous EAD results. Furthermore, as the procedure described here enables EAD observation in situ and in real time in a transmission electron microscope (TEM), it is superior to existing post-mortem methods that observe EAD effects post-test. Test samples consist of a single crystal copper (SCC) foil having a free-standing tensile test section of nanoscale thickness, fabricated using a combination of laser and ion beam milling. The SCC is mounted to an etched silicon base that provides mechanical support and electrical isolation while serving as a heat sink. Using this geometry, even at high current density (~3,500 A/mm2), the test section experiences a negligible temperature increase (<0.02 °C), thus eliminating Joule heating effects. Monitoring material deformation and identifying the corresponding changes to microstructures, e.g. dislocations, are accomplished by acquiring and analyzing a series of TEM images. Our sample preparation and in situ experiment procedures are robust and versatile as they can be readily utilized to test materials with different microstructures, e.g., single and polycrystalline copper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere55735
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number124
StatePublished - Jun 2 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Electromechanical behavior
  • Engineering
  • In situ material characterization
  • Issue 124
  • Laser patterning
  • Microsystem
  • Nanospecimens
  • Transmission electron microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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