Manipulating the interfacial structure of nanomaterials to achieve a unique combination of strength and ductility

A Khalajhedayati and ZL Pan and TJ Rupert, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 7, 10802 (2016).

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10802

The control of interfaces in engineered nanostructured materials has met limited success compared with that which has evolved in natural materials, where hierarchical structures with distinct interfacial states are often found. Such interface control could mitigate common limitations of engineering nanomaterials. For example, nanostructured metals exhibit extremely high strength, but this benefit comes at the expense of other important properties like ductility. Here, we report a technique for combining nanostructuring with recent advances capable of tuning interface structure, a complementary materials design strategy that allows for unprecedented property combinations. Copper-based alloys with both grain sizes in the nanometre range and distinct grain boundary structural features are created, using segregating dopants and a processing route that favours the formation of amorphous intergranular films. The mechanical behaviour of these alloys shows that the trade-off between strength and ductility typically observed for metallic materials is successfully avoided here.

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