Micropillar compression

The Alemnis Standard Assembly (ASA) is designed for micropillar compression experiments.

The ASA is the world most sold nanoindentation platform and provides instruments to the most prestigious research centers and universities, pushing the frontier of nanomechanical testing allowing breakthrough publications.


The ASA is the only instrument of its kind to operate with true displacement control, thus allowing any sudden load excursions to be monitored by a load cell in real time.


The unique strain rate options possible with the ASA mean that the strain rate can be varied even within an experiment, often referred to as a strain rate jump test. This can be used to investigate the strain rate sensitivity of a material over unprecedented orders of magnitude.

What is micropillar compression?

Unmatched capabilities

  • Maximum actuation speed of  ̴ 8 mm/s
  • Micropillar with gage length of  ̴ 4 µm,
  • The effective strain rate can cover the range 0.0001/s up to a maximum of 2000/s
  • Equates to 8 orders of magnitude of strain rate.

True versatility

Thanks to its modular design, the ASA can conduct numerous experiments on micropillar specimens, including:

Breakthrough experiments in unique settings

Although many micropillar compression tests are performed in-situ inside an SEM, it is also possible to mount the ASA ex-situ and use an optical microscope to align the flat punch indenter on the micropillar. Such an ex-situ approach can be used to perform unique experiments which could not be performed inside the SEM including:

  • Non-conductive materials
  • Fragile materials
  • Biomaterial micropillars submerged in liquid for simulating true “in-service” conditions
  • Electrical contact resistance experiments
  • Electro-chemical evaluations.

Product Specifications

Main Components:

  • Displacement head: piezo actuated displacement head with integrated displacement sensor for closed loop operation. Maximum displacement 40 µm, displacement resolution < 1 nm;
  • Load sensor: max. force: 0.5 N, typically 4 µN RMS noise;
  • Sample versus indentation tip positioning: Piezoelectric XY+Z micro-positioning system for sample positioning and tip approach (26 mm range in X and Y, 26 mm range in Z), with integrated position sensors for closed loop operation (< 2 nm resolution);
  • 5 standard stubs;
  • all cables and connectors for in air operation.

For integration in SEM, additional modifications may be required, such as custom flanges, cabling, mounts and connectors. This is typically quoted on a case-by-case basis.

Alemnis Standard Assembly

Customer testimonials

Gaylord Guillonneau, Ecole Centrale de Lyon

“The Alemnis in-situ indenter is a robust and versatile device. We have used it extensively for micropillar compression and indentation on tribological transformed surfaces, at ambient temperature and at high temperature. The strong advantage of the device is that it is displacement controlled, allowing mechanical tests on fragile materials, without destroying the micropillar. It is also, with the Ultra High Strain Rate (UHSR) module, very rigid and allows us to measure the mechanical properties of our materials up to 10,000/s strain rate.”

G. Mohanty, Tampere University of Technology

[The ASA] is a versatile, modular, easy-to-use and, […] robust, […] performing any kind of mechanical tests. Its greatest strength, in comparison to other nanoindenters, is that it is inherently displacement controlled which makes it extremely easy to perform strain rate jump, stress relaxation and fracture tests. […] And special mention of the Alemnis team that is always available for support, stimulating discussions and collaborations.

P. Spätig, Paul Scherrer Institute

“The in-situ Alemnis indenter is a reliable, very flexible, and easy-to-use micro-mechanical test device. Thanks to the professionalism of the Alemnis team you get started with the instrument in no time. Support, direct discussion and help are the great assets of Alemnis.

Y. Chiu, University of Birmingham

“[…]  a true displacement controlled system enables us to study conveniently the mechanical response, under prescribed strain rates, of a range of structural engineering alloys from nickel-base alloys, new titanium alloys and steels developed by our industry partners. The continuous professional support from the Alemnis team has been greatly appreciated.

Gonzalo García Luna, University of Nottingham

“The ASA is an outstandingly versatile yet robust device for all types of micromechanical testing. [… ] Moreover, the excellent team of professionals behind the device is always available for support and well-informed discussions on potential applications. Without the Alemnis nanoindenter we simply could not undertake research of such high quality as we currently do.”

Siddhartha Pathak, University of Nevada, Reno

The versatility of the Alemnis system is a big advantage for our experiments. […] Our 2018-19 senior design team was recently awarded the Second Prize in the 2019 ASM Foundation Design Competition for a micro-tensile grip design based on the Alemnis system.

J. Schwiedrzik, EMPA Thun

“The flexibility of the Alemnis system […] has allowed us to widen the scope of our research enormously. [It] has provided significant new data for this class of materials.”

Magnus Colliander, Chalmers University of Technology

“[…] The excellent long term stability of the system allows us to perform spatially resolved diffraction with sub 100 nm resolution, and through the help and openness of Alemnis support it has been integrated into the beamline control system. The indenter is both robust and easy to set up […].”

Publications on micropillar compression

Keller, L.M., et al., Understanding anisotropic mechanical properties of shales at different length scales: In situ micropillar compression combined with finite element calculations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2017. 122(8): p. 5945-5955.

Xiao, Y., et al., Investigation of the deformation behavior of aluminum micropillars produced by focused ion beam machining using Ga and Xe ions. Scripta Materialia, 2017. 127: p. 191-194.

Mohanty G, Wehrs J, Boyce BL, Taylor A, Hasegawa M, Philippe L, et al. Room temperature stress relaxation in nanocrystalline Ni measured by micropillar compression and miniature tension. Journal of Materials Research 2016; 31:1085-95.

Abad OT, Wheeler JM, Michler J, Schneider AS, Arzt E. Temperature-dependent size effects on the strength of Ta and W micropillars. Acta Materialia 2016;103:483-94.

Abad, O.T., et al., Temperature-dependent size effects on the strength of Ta and W micropillars. Acta Materialia, 2016. 103: p. 483-494.

Mohanty, G., et al., Room temperature stress relaxation in nanocrystalline Ni measured by micropillar compression and miniature tension. Journal of Materials Research, 2016. 31(8): p. 1085-1095.

Soler R, Wheeler JM, Chang H-J, Segurado J, Michler J, Llorca J, et al. Understanding size effects on the strength of single crystals through high-temperature micropillar compression. Acta Materialia 2014;81:50-7.

Schwiedrzik J, Raghavan R, Bürki A, LeNader V, Wolfram U, Michler J, et al. In situ micropillar compression reveals superior strength and ductility but an absence of damage in lamellar bone. Nature materials 2014;13:740-7

Rabier J, Montagne A, Wheeler J, Demenet J, Michler J, Ghisleni R. Silicon micropillars: high stress plasticity. Phys Status Solidi 2013;10:11-5

See more publications in materials science using the Alemnis Standard Assembly