Plasticity without dislocations in a polycrystalline intermetallic

HB Luo and HW Sheng and HL Zhang and FQ Wang and JK Fan and J Du and JP Liu and I Szlufarska, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 10, 3587 (2019).

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-11505-1

Dislocation activity is critical to ductility and the mechanical strength of metals. Dislocations are the primary drivers of plastic deformation, and their interactions with each other and with other microstructural features such as grain boundaries (GBs) lead to strengthening of metals. In general, suppressing dislocation activity leads to brittleness of polycrystalline materials. Here, we find an intermetallic that can accommodate large plastic strain without the help of dislocations. For small grain sizes, the primary deformation mechanism is GB sliding, whereas for larger grain sizes the material deforms by direct amorphization along shear planes. The unusual deformation mechanisms lead to the absence of traditional Hall-Petch (HP) relation commonly observed in metals and to an extended regime of strength weakening with grain refinement, referred to as the inverse HP relation. The results are first predicted in simulations and then confirmed experimentally.

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