Effect of native oxide layers on copper thin-film tensile properties: A reactive molecular dynamics study
MD Skarlinski and DJ Quesnel, JOURNAL OF APPLIED PHYSICS, 118, 235306 (2015).
Metal-oxide layers are likely to be present on metallic nano-structures due to either environmental exposure during use, or high temperature processing techniques such as annealing. It is well known that nano- structured metals have vastly different mechanical properties from bulk metals; however, difficulties in modeling the transition between metallic and ionic bonding have prevented the computational investigation of the effects of oxide surface layers. Newly developed charge-optimized many body Liang et al., Mater. Sci. Eng., R 74, 255 (2013) potentials are used to perform fully reactive molecular dynamics simulations which elucidate the effects that metal-oxide layers have on the mechanical properties of a copper thin-film. Simulated tensile tests are performed on thin-films while using different strain-rates, temperatures, and oxide thicknesses to evaluate changes in yield stress, modulus, and failure mechanisms. Findings indicate that copper-thin film mechanical properties are strongly affected by native oxide layers. The formed oxide layers have an amorphous structure with lower Cu-O bond- densities than bulk CuO, and a mixture of Cu2O and CuO charge character. It is found that oxidation will cause modifications to the strain response of the elastic modulii, producing a stiffened modulii at low temperatures (<75 K) and low strain values (<5%), and a softened modulii at higher temperatures. While under strain, structural reorganization within the oxide layers facilitates brittle yielding through nucleation of defects across the oxide/metal interface. The oxide-free copper thin- film yielding mechanism is found to be a tensile-axis reorientation and grain creation. The oxide layers change the observed yielding mechanism, allowing for the inner copper thin-film to sustain an FCC-to-BCC transition during yielding. The mechanical properties are fit to a thermodynamic model based on classical nucleation theory. The fit implies that the oxidation of the films reduces the activation volume for yielding. (C) 2015 AIP Publishing LLC.
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