Toughening and Crack Healing Mechanisms in Nanotwinned Diamond Composites with Various Polytypes

YP Zeng and Q Zhang and YJ Wang and JX Jiang and HZ Xing and XY Li, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 127, 066101 (2021).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.127.066101

As an emerging ceramic material, recently synthesized nanotwinned diamond composites with various polytypes embedded in nanoscale twins exhibit unprecedented fracture toughness without sacrificing hardness. However, the toughening and crack healing mechanisms at the atomic scale and the associated crack propagation process of nanotwinned diamond composites remain mysterious. Here, we perform large-scale atomistic simulations of crack propagation in nanotwinned diamond composites to explore the underlying toughening and crack healing mechanisms in nanotwinned diamond composites. Our simulation results show that nanotwinned diamond composites have a higher fracture energy than single-crystalline and nanotwinned diamonds, which originates from multiple toughening mechanisms, including twin boundary and phase boundary impeding crack propagation, crack deflection and zigzag paths in nanotwins and sinuous paths in polytypes, and the formation of disordered atom clusters. More remarkably, our simulations reproduce more detailed crack propagation processes at the atomic scale, which is inaccessible by experiments. Moreover, our simulations reveal that crack healing occurs due to the rebonding of atoms on fracture surfaces during unloading and that the extent of crack healing is associated with whether the crack surfaces are clean. Our current study provides mechanistic insights into a fundamental understanding of toughening and crack healing mechanisms in nanotwinned diamond composites.

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