Origins of size effects in initially dislocation-free single-crystal silver micro- and nanocubes

C Griesbach and SJ Jeon and DF Rojas and M Ponga and S Yazdi and S Pathak and N Mara and EL Thomas and R Thevamaran, ACTA MATERIALIA, 214, 117020 (2021).

DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2021.117020

We report phenomenal yield strengths-up to one-fourth of the theoretical strength of silver & mdash;recorded in microcompression testing of initially dislocation-free silver micro-and nanocubes synthesized from a multistep seed-growth process. These high strengths and the massive strain bursts that occur upon yield are results of the initially dislocation-free single-crystal structure of the pristine samples that yield through spontaneous nucleation of dislocations. When the pristine samples are exposed to a focused ion-beam to fabricate pillars and then compressed, the dramatic strain burst does not occur, and they yield at a quarter of the strength compared to the pristine counterparts. Regardless of the defect-state of the samples prior to testing, a size effect is apparent-where the yield strength increases as the sample size decreases. Since dislocation starvation and the single-arm-source mechanisms cannot explain a size effect on yield strength in dislocation-free samples, we investigate the dislocation nucleation mechanisms controlling the size effect through careful experimental observations and molecular statics simulations. We find that intrinsic or extrinsic symmetry breakers such as surface defects, edge roundness, external sample shape, or a high vacancy concentration can influence dislocation nucleation, and thus contribute to the size effect on yield strength in initially dislocation-free samples. (c) 2021 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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