Silica Glass Toughened by Consolidation of Glassy Nanoparticles

YM Zhang and LP Huang and YF Shi, NANO LETTERS, 19, 5222-5228 (2019).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.9b01634

The brittleness of oxide glasses has dramatically restricted their practical applications as structural materials despite very high theoretical strength. Herein, using molecular dynamics simulations, we show that silica glass prepared by consolidating glassy nanoparticles exhibit remarkable tensile ductility. Because of dangling bonds at surfaces and high contact stresses, the pressure applied for consolidating glassy nanoparticles to achieve ductility is significantly lower than that required to toughen bulk glass via permanent densification. We have identified 5-fold silicon, with a higher propensity to carry out local shear deformation than 4-fold silicon, as the structural origin for the observed tensile ductility. Interestingly, the work hardening effect has been, for the first time, observed in thus-prepared silica glass, with its strength increasing from 4 GPa to similar to 7 GPa upon cold work. This is due to stress-assisted relaxation of 5-fold silicon to 4-fold during cold work, analogous to transformation hardening.

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