Statistical perspective on embrittling potency for intergranular fracture

ME Fernandez and R Dingreville and DE Spearot, PHYSICAL REVIEW MATERIALS, 6, 083602 (2022).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevMaterials.6.083602

Embrittling potency is a thermodynamic metric that assesses the influence of solute segregation to a grain boundary (GB) on intergranular fracture. Historically, authors of studies have reported embrittling potency as a single scalar value, assuming a single segregation site of importance at a GB and a particular cleavage plane. However, the topography of intergranular fracture surfaces is not generally known a priori. Accordingly, in this paper, we present a statistical ensemble approach to compute embrittling potency, where many free surface (FS) permutations are systematically considered to model fracture of a GB. The result is a statistical description of the thermodynamics of GB embrittlement. As a specific example, embrittling potency distributions are presented for Cr segregation to sites at two Ni (111) symmetric tilt GBs using atomistic simulations. We show that the average embrittling potency for a particular GB site, considering an ensemble of FS permutations, is not equal to the embrittling potency computed using the lowest energy pair of FSs. A mean GB embrittlement is proposed, considering both the likelihood of formation of a particular FS and the probability of solute occupancy at each GB site, to compare the relative embrittling behavior of two distinct GBs.

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