Strain gradient drives shear banding in metallic glasses

ZL Tian and YJ Wang and Y Chen and LH Dai, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 96, 094103 (2017).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.96.094103

Shear banding is a nucleation-controlled process in metallic glasses (MGs) involving multiple temporal-spatial scales, which hinders a concrete understanding of its structural origin down to the atomic scale. Here, inspired by the morphology of composite materials, we propose a different perspective of MGs as a hard particle-reinforced material based on atomic-scale structural heterogeneity. The local stable structures indicated by a high level of local fivefold symmetry (L5FS) act as hard "particles" which are embedded in the relatively soft matrix. We demonstrate this concept by performing atomistic simulations of shear banding in CuZr MG. A shear band is prone to form in a sample with a high degree of L5FS which is slowly quenched from the liquid. An atomic-scale analysis on strain and the structural evolution reveals that it is the strain gradient effect that has originated from structural heterogeneity that facilitates shear transformation zones (STZs) to mature shear bands. An artificial composite model with a high degree of strain gradient, generated by inserting hard MG strips into a soft MG matrix, demonstrates a great propensity for shear banding. It therefore confirms the critical role strain gradient plays in shear banding. The strain gradient effect on shear banding is further quantified with a continuum model and a mechanical instability analysis. These physical insights might highlight the strain gradient as the hidden driving force in transforming STZs into shear bands in MGs.

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