The effect of grain boundary on the local incipient plastic deformation of fcc metals during nanoindentation

M Bagheripoor and R Klassen, JOURNAL OF APPLIED PHYSICS, 128, 025105 (2020).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0010370

The effect of grain boundaries (GBs) on deformation mechanisms becomes increasingly important as the volume of deformation reaches the submicrometer and nanoscale. The current work investigates the impact of grain boundaries on the incipient plasticity of small-scale deformations of fcc metals. For this purpose, the behavior of single and bi-crystal Au thin films during nanoindentation are studied, using large-scale atomistic simulations. Various symmetric 110 tilt GBs with a wide range of misorientation angles are included to analyze the effect of GB geometry on the nanoscale plasticity mechanisms. Potentially, GBs can act as a source, sink, or obstacle for lattice dislocation, depending on their geometry, energy level, and distance from the deformation zone. The role of the heterogeneous nucleation and emission of dislocations from GBs on the plasticity and hardness of bicrystals is analyzed. According to our results, the intrinsic free volume involved in the GB region is associated with dislocation nucleation at the GB. The volume of the plastic zone generated beneath the tip and the way it grows is strongly dependent on the GB structure. Dislocation nucleation occurs predominantly in the early stages of indentation at GBs with a dissociated interface structural unit, before the interaction of lattice dislocation and GB. Coherent twin boundaries display the lowest effect on the hardness. Based on our results, there is a strong correlation between the interfacial boundary energy and its effect on the bicrystal hardness. GBs with lower interfacial energy offer a higher barrier against slip transmission and nucleation at the GB.

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