A spall and diffraction study of nanosecond pressure release across the iron ε-α phase boundary

G Righi and R Briggs and OR Deluigi and C Stan and S Singh and SM Clarke and EM Bringa and RF Smith and RE Rudd and HS Park and MA Meyers, ACTA MATERIALIA, 257, 119148 (2023).

DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2023.119148

The extreme response of polycrystalline iron at high pressures and high strain rates is revealed by means of high power laser pulses. The compression portion of the pulse coupled with x-ray diffraction identifies the expected body-centered cubic (& alpha;) to hexagonal close packed (e) displacive transformation. Upon release, observation shows that the complete reverse transformation takes approximately 8 ns and that the structure returns to its initial microstructural configuration, in a reversible transformation path. This is in good agreement with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations which predict an inverse dependence between transformation time and strain rate. The grain size is reduced from & mu;m to nm range during compression and begins increasing back to the original grain size on decompression. The kinetics of the transition is dictated by heterogenous nucleation as it follows the Johnson-Mehl-Avrami-Kolmogorov equation with the appropriate time exponent of-1. This is confirmed by MD simulations which also identify profuse twinning and dislocation generation. The tensile pulse generated upon reflection at the free surface is captured by time- resolved free surface velocity measurements from which a peak tensile stress of 7 GPa is obtained, in stark contrast with its quasi-static value of-200 MPa. At these strain rates, the strength of grain interiors, which is determined by twinning and slip exceeds the strength of the boundaries, and failure initiates preferentially in the latter.

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