Mobility and coalescence of stacking fault tetrahedra in Cu

E Martinez and BP Uberuaga, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 5, 9084 (2015).

DOI: 10.1038/srep09084

Stacking fault tetrahedra (SFTs) are ubiquitous defects in face-centered cubic metals. They are produced during cold work plastic deformation, quenching experiments or under irradiation. From a dislocation point of view, the SFTs are comprised of a set of stair-rod dislocations at the (110) edges of a tetrahedron bounding triangular stacking faults. These defects are extremely stable, increasing their energetic stability as they grow in size. At the sizes visible within transmission electron microscope they appear nearly immobile. Contrary to common belief, we show in this report, using a combination of molecular dynamics and temperature accelerated dynamics, how small SFTs can diffuse by temporarily disrupting their structure through activated thermal events. More over, we demonstrate that the diffusivity of defective SFTs is several orders of magnitude higher than perfect SFTs, and can be even higher than isolated vacancies. Finally, we show how SFTs can coalesce, forming a larger defect in what is a new mechanism for the growth of these omnipresent defects.

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