Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering

Advisor's Name

Nakin Suksawang

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Arvind Agarwal

Advisor's Name

Ton-Lo Wang

Advisor's Name

Amir Mirmiran


Cementitious materials, Finite element method, Mechanical Properties, Nanoindentation, Work-of-indentation approach

Date of Defense



Advances in multiscale material modeling of structural concrete have created an upsurge of interest in the accurate evaluation of mechanical properties and volume fractions of its nano constituents. The task is accomplished by analyzing the response of a material to indentation, obtained as an outcome of a nanoindentation experiment, using a procedure called the Oliver and Pharr (OP) method. Despite its widespread use, the accuracy of this method is often questioned when it is applied to the data from heterogeneous materials or from the materials that show pile-up and sink-in during indentation, which necessitates the development of an alternative method.

In this study, a model is developed within the framework defined by contact mechanics to compute the nanomechanical properties of a material from its indentation response. Unlike the OP method, indentation energies are employed in the form of dimensionless constants to evaluate model parameters. Analysis of the load-displacement data pertaining to a wide range of materials revealed that the energy constants may be used to determine the indenter tip bluntness, hardness and initial unloading stiffness of the material. The proposed model has two main advantages: (1) it does not require the computation of the contact area, a source of error in the existing method; and (2) it incorporates the effect of peak indentation load, dwelling period and indenter tip bluntness on the measured mechanical properties explicitly.

Indentation tests are also carried out on samples from cement paste to validate the energy based model developed herein by determining the elastic modulus and hardness of different phases of the paste. As a consequence, it has been found that the model computes the mechanical properties in close agreement with that obtained by the OP method; a discrepancy, though insignificant, is observed more in the case of C-S-H than in the anhydrous phase. Nevertheless, the proposed method is computationally efficient, and thus it is highly suitable when the grid indentation technique is required to be performed. In addition, several empirical relations are developed that are found to be crucial in understanding the nanomechanical behavior of cementitious materials.