Shock waves in polycrystalline iron: Plasticity and phase transitions

N Gunkelmann and EM Bringa and DR Tramontina and CJ Ruestes and MJ Suggit and A Higginbotham and JS Wark and HM Urbassek, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 89, 140102 (2014).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.89.140102

At a pressure of around 13 GPa iron undergoes a structural phase transition from the bcc to the hexagonal close-packed phase. Atomistic simulations have provided important insights into this transition. However, while experiments in polycrystals show clear evidence that the alpha-epsilon transition is preceded by plasticity, simulations up to now could not detect any plastic activity occurring before the phase change. Here we study shock waves in polycrystalline Fe using an interatomic potential which incorporates the alpha-epsilon transition faithfully. Our simulations show that the phase transformation is preceded by dislocation generation at grain boundaries, giving a three- wave profile. The alpha-epsilon transformation pressure is much higher than the equilibrium transformation pressure but decreases slightly with increasing loading ramp time (decreasing strain rate). The transformed phase is mostly composed of hcp grains with large defect density. Simulated x-ray diffraction displays clear evidence for this hcp phase, with powder-diffraction-type patterns as they would be seen using current experimental setups.

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