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Effect of Microstructural Interfaces on the Mechanical Response of Crystalline Metallic Materials


Aitken, Zachary Howard (2015) Effect of Microstructural Interfaces on the Mechanical Response of Crystalline Metallic Materials. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9C24TCP.


Advances in nano-scale mechanical testing have brought about progress in the understanding of physical phenomena in materials and a measure of control in the fabrication of novel materials. In contrast to bulk materials that display size-invariant mechanical properties, sub-micron metallic samples show a critical dependence on sample size. The strength of nano-scale single crystalline metals is well-described by a power-law function, σαD-n, where D is a critical sample size and n is a experimentally-fit positive exponent. This relationship is attributed to source-driven plasticity and demonstrates a strengthening as the decreasing sample size begins to limit the size and number of dislocation sources. A full understanding of this size-dependence is complicated by the presence of microstructural features such as interfaces that can compete with the dominant dislocation-based deformation mechanisms. In this thesis, the effects of microstructural features such as grain boundaries and anisotropic crystallinity on nano-scale metals are investigated through uniaxial compression testing. We find that nano-sized Cu covered by a hard coating displays a Bauschinger effect and the emergence of this behavior can be explained through a simple dislocation-based analytic model. Al nano-pillars containing a single vertically-oriented coincident site lattice grain boundary are found to show similar deformation to single-crystalline nano-pillars with slip traces passing through the grain boundary. With increasing tilt angle of the grain boundary from the pillar axis, we observe a transition from dislocation-dominated deformation to grain boundary sliding. Crystallites are observed to shear along the grain boundary and molecular dynamics simulations reveal a mechanism of atomic migration that accommodates boundary sliding. We conclude with an analysis of the effects of inherent crystal anisotropy and alloying on the mechanical behavior of the Mg alloy, AZ31. Through comparison to pure Mg, we show that the size effect dominates the strength of samples below 10 μm, that differences in the size effect between hexagonal slip systems is due to the inherent crystal anisotropy, suggesting that the fundamental mechanism of the size effect in these slip systems is the same.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Nano-compression experiment Grain boundary sliding Size effect Molecular dynamics simulations
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Mechanical Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Greer, Julia R.
Group:Kavli Nanoscience Institute
Thesis Committee:
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami (chair)
  • Goddard, William A., III
  • Kochmann, Dennis M.
  • Greer, Julia R.
Defense Date:14 May 2015
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Science FoundationDMR-0748267
Army Research LabW911NF-12-2-0022
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:04302015-143917971
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8841
Deposited By: Zachary Aitken
Deposited On:02 Jun 2015 23:22
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:27

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