Understanding imprint formation, plastic instabilities and hardness evolutions in FCC, BCC and HCP metal surfaces

J Varillas and J Ocenasek and J Torner and J Alcala, ACTA MATERIALIA, 217, 117122 (2021).

DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2021.117122

Nanoindentation experiments in metal surfaces are characterized by the onset of plastic instabilities along with the development of permanent nanoimprints and dense defect networks. This investigation concerns massive molecular dynamics simulations of nanoindentation experiments in FCC, BCC and HCP metals using blunted (spherical) tips of realistic size, and the detailed comparison of the results with experimental measurements. Our findings shed light on the defect processes which dictate the contact resistance to plastic deformation, the development of a transitional stage with abrupt plastic instabilities, and the evolution towards a self-similar steady-state characterized by the plateauing hardness p(p) at constant dislocation density rho(p). The onset of permanent nanoimprints is governed by stacking fault and nanotwin interlocking, the buildup of nanostructured regions and crystallites throughout the imprint, the crossslip and cross-kinking of surfaced screw dislocations, and the occurrence of defect remobilization events within the plastic zone. As a result of these mechanisms, the ratio between the hardness p(p) and the Young's modulus Ebecomes higher in BCC Ta and Fe, followed by FCC Al, HCP Mg and large stacking fault width FCC Ni and Cu. Finally, when nanoimprint formation is correlated with the uniaxial response of the indented minuscule material volume, the hardness to yield strength ratio, p(p)/sigma(ys), varies from approximate to 7 to approximate to 10, which largely exceeds the continuum plasticity bound of approximate to 2.8. Our results have general implications to the understanding of indentation size-effects, where the onset of extreme nanoscale hardness values is associated with the occurrence of unique imprint-forming processes under large strain gradients. (C) 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Acta Materialia Inc.

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