On the uniqueness of measuring elastoplastic properties from indentation : The indistinguishable mystical materials

Xi CHEN*, Nagahisa OGASAWARA, Manhong ZHAO, Norimasa CHIBA

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

239 Citations (Scopus)


Indentation is widely used to extract material elastoplastic properties from the measured force-displacement curves. One of the most well-established indentation techniques utilizes dual (or plural) sharp indenters (which have different apex angles) to deduce key parameters such as the elastic modulus, yield stress, and work-hardening exponent for materials that obey the power-law constitutive relationship. However, the uniqueness of such analysis is not yet systematically studied or challenged. Here we show the existence of "mystical materials", which have distinct elastoplastic properties yet they yield almost identical indentation behaviors, even when the indenter angle is varied in a large range. These mystical materials are, therefore, indistinguishable by many existing indentation analyses unless extreme (and often impractical) indenter angles are used. Explicit procedures of deriving these mystical materials are established, and the general characteristics of the mystical materials are discussed. In many cases, for a given indenter angle range, a material would have infinite numbers of mystical siblings, and the existence maps of the mystical materials are also obtained. Furthermore, we propose two alternative techniques to effectively distinguish these mystical materials. The study in this paper addresses the important question of the uniqueness of indentation test, as well as providing useful guidelines to properly use the indentation technique to measure material elastoplastic properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1618-1660
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Issue number8
Early online date22 Feb 2007
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Indentation
  • Mechanical properties
  • Unique solution


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