Machine learning determination of atomic dynamics at grain boundaries

TA Sharp and SL Thomas and ED Cubuk and SS Schoenholz and DJ Srolovitz and AJ Liu, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 115, 10943-10947 (2018).

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1807176115

In polycrystalline materials, grain boundaries are sites of enhanced atomic motion, but the complexity of the atomic structures within a grain boundary network makes it difficult to link the structure and atomic dynamics. Here, we use a machine learning technique to establish a connection between local structure and dynamics of these materials. Following previous work on bulk glassy materials, we define a purely structural quantity (softness) that captures the propensity of an atom to rearrange. This approach correctly identifies crystalline regions, stacking faults, and twin boundaries as having low likelihood of atomic rearrangements while finding a large variability within high-energy grain boundaries. As has been found in glasses, the probability that atoms of a given softness will rearrange is nearly Arrhenius. This indicates a well-defined energy barrier as well as a well-defined prefactor for the Arrhenius form for atoms of a given softness. The decrease in the prefactor for low-softness atoms indicates that variations in entropy exhibit a dominant influence on the atomic dynamics in grain boundaries.

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