Conventional understanding of the strength of materials, states that a large beam and a tiny beam of the same material will fail at the same stress. However, in the real world, small beams/fibres are stronger and this ‘size-effect’ or ‘length-scale effect’ can change the strength of a material by an order of magnitude. The project will generate design rules and new measurement techniques to exploit the opportunity to length-scale engineer materials into more sustainable/energy efficient industrial components that are lighter, stronger, fatigue and wear resistant. The project will also will work with the industrial and academic communities to deploy these materials and techniques.

The project addresses the following scientific and technical objectives:


  1. Develop validated design rules for combining different size effects to generate strength with toughness in materials and components over a range of temperatures. Develop a plasticity size effect algorithm for processing small scale test data maps to obtain material-only properties. This algorithm will be incorporated into an analysis programme to support materials property mapping (by indentation) of surfaces and small volumes of materials. The project will enable the combination of multiple length-scale effects and reduce the uncertainty in property and performance prediction by an order of magnitude to tens of percent.
  2. Develop better indentation probes and a Microelectromechanical system (MEMS)-based instrumented indentation system to bridge the length and force scale between Atomic force microscopy (AFM) and Nano-indentation. The project will develop cheaper and more reproducible diamond-based probes to enable better measurement of a wider range of materials.
  3. Develop methods and associated uncertainty budgets and measure the length-scale dependence of the strength and toughness of materials vs. temperature. The project will measure size-dependence of strength using indentation and compression testing from nano to macro-scale. It will establish new NMI capability in high temperature indentation, at temperatures up to 400 °C in air and at least 500 °C in vacuo.
  4. Develop and evaluate measurement methods to distinguish between the contribution(s) to the total test response from the material, the size of component/sample and from test/use size effects.
  5. Support the competitiveness of EU industry by engaging with industries using manufacturing technologies and process control and by supporting the development of new, innovative products. This includes conducting case studies to facilitate the uptake of the technology and measurement infrastructure developed by the project; and by contributing to standardisation bodies.