Electron microscope loading and in situ nanoindentation of water ice at cryogenic temperatures

Dubosq, Renelle; Woods, Eric; Gault, Baptiste; Best, James P.

PLoS ONE 18 (2023)

Interest in the technique of low temperature environmental nanoindentation has gained momentum in recent years. Low temperature indentation apparatuses can, for instance, be used for systematic measurements of the mechanical properties of ice in the laboratory, in order to accurately determine the inputs for the constitutive equations describing the rheologic behaviour of natural ice (i.e., the Glen flow law). These properties are essential to predict the movement of glaciers and ice sheets over time as a response to a changing climate. Herein, we introduce a new experimental setup and protocol for electron microscope loading and in situ nanoindentation of water ice. Preliminary testing on pure water ice yield elastic modulus and hardness measurements of 4.1 GPa and 176 MPa, respectively, which fall within the range of previously published values. Our approach demonstrates the potential of low temperature, in situ, instrumented nanoindentation of ice under controlled conditions in the SEM, opening the possibility for investigating individual structural elements and systematic studies across species and concentration of impurities to refine to constitutive equations for natural ice.