A nanodispersion-in-nanograins strategy for ultra-strong, ductile and stable metal nanocomposites

Z Li and Y Zhang and ZB Zhang and YT Cui and Q Guo and P Liu and SB Jin and G Sha and KQ Ding and ZQ Li and TX Fan and HM Urbassek and Q Yu and T Zhu and D Zhang and YM Wang, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 13, 5581 (2022).

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-33261-5

High-strength nanocrystalline materials come at the expense of tensile ductility, thermal stability, and electrical conductivity. Here the authors report a nanodispersion-in-nanograins strategy where ultra-nano- carbon was used to concurrently achieve above four mutually exclusive properties. Nanograined metals have the merit of high strength, but usually suffer from low work hardening capacity and poor thermal stability, causing premature failure and limiting their practical utilities. Here we report a "nanodispersion-in-nanograins" strategy to simultaneously strengthen and stabilize nanocrystalline metals such as copper and nickel. Our strategy relies on a uniform dispersion of extremely fine sized carbon nanoparticles (2.6 +/- 1.2 nm) inside nanograins. The intragranular dispersion of nanoparticles not only elevates the strength of already-strong nanograins by 35%, but also activates multiple hardening mechanisms via dislocation-nanoparticle interactions, leading to improved work hardening and large tensile ductility. In addition, these finely dispersed nanoparticles result in substantially enhanced thermal stability and electrical conductivity in metal nanocomposites. Our results demonstrate the concurrent improvement of several mutually exclusive properties in metals including strength- ductility, strength-thermal stability, and strength-electrical conductivity, and thus represent a promising route to engineering high- performance nanostructured materials.

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