Origins of the change in mechanical strength of silicon/gold nanocomposites during irradiation

EY Chen and CP Hopper and RR Santhapuram and R Dingreville and AK Nair, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 11, 19526 (2021).

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-98652-y

Silicon-based layered nanocomposites, comprised of covalent-metal interfaces, have demonstrated elevated resistance to radiation. The amorphization of the crystalline silicon sublayer during irradiation and/or heating can provide an additional mechanism for accommodating irradiation-induced defects. In this study, we investigated the mechanical strength of irradiated Si-based nanocomposites using atomistic modeling. We first examined dose effects on the defect evolution mechanisms near silicon-gold crystalline and amorphous interfaces. Our simulations reveal the growth of an emergent amorphous interfacial layer with increasing dose, a dominant factor mitigating radiation damage. We then examined the effect of radiation on the mechanical strength of silicon-gold multilayers by constructing yield surfaces. These results demonstrate a rapid onset strength loss with dose. Nearly identical behavior is observed in bulk gold, a phenomenon that can be rooted to the formation of radiation-induced stacking fault tetrahedra which dominate the dislocation emission mechanism during mechanical loading. Taken together, these results advance our understanding of the interaction between radiation-induced point defects and metal-covalent interfaces.

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