Substantial tensile ductility in sputtered Zr-Ni-Al nano-sized metallic glass

R Liontas and M Jafary-Zadeh and QS Zeng and YW Zhang and WL Mao and JR Greer, ACTA MATERIALIA, 118, 270-285 (2016).

DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2016.07.050

We investigate the mechanical behavior and atomic-level structure of glassy Zr-Ni-Al nano-tensile specimens with widths between 75 and 215 nm. We focus our studies on two different energy states: (1) as- sputtered and (2) sputtered then annealed below the glass transition temperature (T-g). In-situ tensile experiments conducted inside a scanning electron microscope (SEM) reveal substantial tensile ductility in some cases reaching >10% engineering plastic strains, >150% true plastic strains, and necking down to a point during tensile straining in specimens as wide as similar to 150 nm. We found the extent of ductility depends on both the specimen size and the annealing conditions. Using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and synchrotron x-ray diffraction (XRD), we explain the observed mechanical behavior through changes in free volume as well as short- and medium-range atomic-level order that occur upon annealing. This work demonstrates the importance of carefully choosing the metallic glass fabrication method and post-processing conditions for achieving a certain atomic-level structure and free volume within the metallic glass, which then determine the overall mechanical response. An important implication is that sputter deposition may be a particularly promising technique for producing thin coatings of metallic glasses with significant ductility, due to the high level of disorder and excess free volume resulting from the sputtering process and to the suitability of sputtering for producing thin coatings that may exhibit enhanced size- induced ductility. (C) 2016 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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