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Deformation of Nanocrystalline Metals under Nanoscale Contact

F. Sansoz and V. Dupont
The University of Vermont, US

Keywords:
atomistic simulation, nanoidentation, nanocrystalline aluminum, grain boundary movement

Abstract:
The nanoindentation of a columnar grain boundary (GB) network in nanocrystalline Al has been examined by atomistic simulation. Our intent was to gain fundamental understanding on the relationship between structure evolution at GBs and incipient plasticity for indenter tips significantly larger than the average grain size. The nanoindentation simulations were performed by quasicontinuum method at zero temperature. A GB network made of vicinal and high-angle <110> tilt GBs was produced by generating randomly-oriented 5-nm grains at the surface of a 200 nm-thick film. The major findings of this investigation are that (1) nanocrystalline GB networks profoundly impact on the nanoindentation response and cause significant softening effects at the tip/surface interface; (2) GB movement and deformation twins are found to be the predominant deformation modes in columnar Al, in association with shear band formation by GB sliding and intragranular slip, and crystal growth by grain rotation and coalescence; and (3) the cooperative grain deformation behavior is driven by the redistribution of atomic shear stress gradients between grains.

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