Amorphous shear bands in crystalline materials as drivers of plasticity

XX Hu and NH Liu and V Jambur and S Attarian and RR Su and HL Zhang and JQ Xi and HB Luo and J Perepezko and I Szlufarska, NATURE MATERIALS, 22, 1071-+ (2023).

DOI: 10.1038/s41563-023-01597-y

Traditionally, the formation of amorphous shear bands in crystalline materials has been undesirable, because shear bands can nucleate voids and act as precursors to fracture. They also form as a final stage of accumulated damage. Only recently were shear bands found to form in undefected crystals, where they serve as the primary driver of plasticity without nucleating voids. Here we have discovered trends in materials properties that determine when amorphous shear bands will form and whether they will drive plasticity or lead to fracture. We have identified the materials systems that exhibit shear-band deformation, and by varying the composition, we were able to switch from ductile to brittle behaviour. Our findings are based on a combination of experimental characterization and atomistic simulations, and they provide a potential strategy for increasing the toughness of nominally brittle materials. Amorphous shear bands in crystalline materials are found to increase the toughness of brittle materials, in contrast to their traditional role as precursors to fracture. Criteria for this toughening have been identified.

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