Nanocomposites are typically polymer-based materials in which the microstructure and mechanical behavior are tailored via the incorporation of additives or nanometer-sized particles. They have significantly enhanced mechanical performance, as well as other properties such as electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, and resistance to permeability and abrasion.
The additives and blending act to produce multi-phase structures in which the length scales of the different phases may range from nanometers to tens of hundreds of microns. The microscopic geometry and properties of the constituent phases govern the resulting macroscopic behavior. The connections between microstructure and mechanical behavior must be understood to design and tailor nanocomposites.
To help make that connection, palmsized tension, compression, and flexural testers have been designed to fit inside the vacuum chamber of a scanning electron microscope. The testers exert forces as small as a few grams or as much as 5 kN. They are suitable for testing tiny specimens of virtually anything, from a human hair or a single carbon fiber to recording tape, and miniature products made of metals, ceramics, wood, or polymers.