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Atomistic Simulation of the Rate-Dependent Ductile-to-Brittle Failure Transition in Bicrystalline Metal Nanowires

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posted on 03.01.2018, 00:00 authored by Weiwei Tao, Penghui Cao, Harold S. Park
The mechanical properties and plastic deformation mechanisms of metal nanowires have been studied intensely for many years. One of the important yet unresolved challenges in this field is to bridge the gap in properties and deformation mechanisms reported for slow strain rate experiments (∼10–2 s–1), and high strain rate molecular dynamics (MD) simulations (∼108 s–1) such that a complete understanding of strain rate effects on mechanical deformation and plasticity can be obtained. In this work, we use long time scale atomistic modeling based on potential energy surface exploration to elucidate the atomistic mechanisms governing a strain-rate-dependent incipient plasticity and yielding transition for face centered cubic (FCC) copper and silver nanowires. The transition occurs for both metals with both pristine and rough surfaces for all computationally accessible diameters (<10 nm). We find that the yield transition is induced by a transition in the incipient plastic event from Shockley partials nucleated on primary slip systems at MD strain rates to the nucleation of planar defects on non-Schmid slip planes at experimental strain rates, where multiple twin boundaries and planar stacking faults appear in copper and silver, respectively. Finally, we demonstrate that, at experimental strain rates, a ductile-to-brittle transition in failure mode similar to previous experimental studies on bicrystalline silver nanowires is observed, which is driven by differences in dislocation activity and grain boundary mobility as compared to the high strain rate case.