Quantum effects on dislocation motion from ring-polymer molecular dynamics

R Freitas and M Asta and VV Bulatov, NPJ COMPUTATIONAL MATERIALS, 4, UNSP 55 (2018).

DOI: 10.1038/s41524-018-0112-9

Quantum motion of atoms known as zero-point vibration was recently proposed to explain a long-standing discrepancy between theoretically computed and experimentally measured low-temperature plastic strength of iron and possibly other metals with high atomic masses. This finding challenges the traditional notion that quantum motion of atoms is relatively unimportant in solids comprised of heavy atoms. Here we report quantum dynamic simulations of quantum effects on dislocation motion within the exact formalism of Ring-Polymer Molecular Dynamics (RPMD). To extend the reach of quantum atomistic simulations to length and time scales relevant for extended defects in materials, we implemented RPMD in the open-source code LAMMPS thus making the RPMD method widely available to the community. We use our RPMD/LAMMPS approach for direct calculations of dislocation mobility and its effects on the yield strength of alpha-iron. Our simulation results establish that quantum effects are noticeable at temperatures below 50 K but account for only a modest (approximate to 13% at T = 0 K) overall reduction in the Peierls barrier, at variance with the factor of two reduction predicted earlier based on the more approximate framework of harmonic transition state theory. Our results confirm that zero-point vibrations provide ample additional agitation for atomic motion that increases with decreasing temperature, however its enhancing effect on dislocation mobility is largely offset by an increase in the effective atom size, an effect known as quantum dispersion that has not been accounted for in the previous calculations.

Return to Publications page