Pseudoelasticity of Single Crystalline Cu Nanowires through Reversible Lattice Reorientations

W. W. Liang and M. Zhou, J Engr Materials and Technology, 127, 423-433 (2005).

Molecular dynamics simulations are carried out to analyze the structure and mechanical behavior of Cu nanowires with lateral dimensions of 1.45-2.89 nm. The calculations simulate the formation of nanowires through a "top-down" fabrication process by "slicing" square columns of atoms from single-crystalline bulk Cu along the 001, 010, and 100 directions and by allowing them to undergo controlled relaxation which involves the reorientation of the initial configuration with a 001) axis and 001 surfaces into a new configuration with a 110 axis and 111 lateral surfaces. The propagation of twin planes is primarily responsible for the lattice rotation. The transformed structure is the same as what has been observed experimentally in Cu nanowires. A pseudoelastic behavior driven by the high surface-to-volume ratio and surface stress at the nanoscale is observed for the transformed wires. Specifically, the relaxed wires undergo a reverse transformation to recover the configuration it possessed as part of the bulk crystal prior to relaxation when tensile loading with sufficient magnitude is applied. The reverse transformation progresses with the propagation of a single twin boundary in reverse to that observed during relaxation. This process has the diffusionless nature and the invariant-plane strain of a martensitic transformation and is similar to those in shape memory alloys in phenomenology. The reversibility of the relaxation and loading processes endows the nanowires with the ability for pseudoelastic elongations of up to 41% in reversible axial strain which is well beyond the yield strain of the approximately 0.25% of bulk Cu and the recoverable strains on the order of 8% of most bulk shape memory materials. The existence of the pseudoelasticity observed in the single-crystalline, metallic nanowires here is size and temperature dependent. At 300 K, this effect is observed in wires with lateral dimensions equal to or smaller than 1.81 X 1.81 nm. As temperature increases, the critical wire size for observing this effect increases. This temperature dependence gives rise to a novel shape memory effect to Cu nanowires not seen in bulk Cu.

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