Grain boundary effects on plastic deformation and fracture mechanisms in Cu nanowires: Molecular dynamics simulations

A Cao and YG Wei and E Ma, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 77, 195429 (2008).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.77.195429

Metallic nanowires have many attractive properties such as ultra-high yield strength and large tensile elongation. However, recent experiments show that metallic nanowires often contain grain boundaries, which are expected to significantly affect mechanical properties. By using molecular dynamics simulations, here, we demonstrate that polycrystalline Cu nanowires exhibit tensile deformation behavior distinctly different from their single-crystal counterparts. A significantly lowered yield strength was observed as a result of dislocation emission from grain boundaries rather than from free surfaces, despite of the very high surface to volume ratio. Necking starts from the grain boundary followed by fracture, resulting in reduced tensile ductility. The high stresses found in the grain boundary region clearly play a dominant role in controlling both inelastic deformation and fracture processes in nanoscale objects. These findings have implications for designing stronger and more ductile structures and devices on nanoscale.

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