Transition from stress-driven to thermally activated stress relaxation in metallic glasses

JC Qiao and YJ Wang and LZ Zhao and LH Dai and D Crespo and JM Pelletier and LM Keer and Y Yao, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 94, 104203 (2016).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.94.104203

The short-range ordered but long-range disordered structure of metallic glasses yields strong structural and dynamic heterogeneities. Stress relaxation is a technique to trace the evolution of stress in response to a fixed strain, which reflects the dynamic features phenomenologically described by the Kohlrausch-Williams-Watts (KWW) equation. The KWW equation describes a broad distribution of relaxation times with a small number of empirical parameters, but it does not arise from a particular physically motivated mechanistic picture. Here we report an anomalous two-stage stress relaxation behavior in a Cu46Zr46Al8 metallic glass over a wide temperature range and generalize the findings in other compositions. Thermodynamic analysis identifies two categories of processes: a fast stress-driven event with large activation volume and a slow thermally activated event with small activation volume, which synthetically dominates the stress relaxation dynamics. Discrete analyses rationalize the transition mechanism induced by stress and explain the anomalous variation of the KWW characteristic time with temperature. Atomistic simulations reveal that the stress- driven event involves virtually instantaneous short-range atomic rearrangement, while the thermally activated event is the percolation of the fast event accommodated by the long-range atomic diffusion. The insights may clarify the underlying physical mechanisms behind the phenomenological description and shed light on correlating the hierarchical dynamics and structural heterogeneity of amorphous solids.

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