Observation of Atomic Diffusion at Twin-Modified Grain Boundaries in Copper

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Science  22 Aug 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5892, pp. 1066-1069
DOI: 10.1126/science.1160777

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Grain boundaries affect the migration of atoms and electrons in polycrystalline solids, thus influencing many of the mechanical and electrical properties. By introducing nanometer-scale twin defects into copper grains, we show that we can change the grain-boundary structure and atomic-diffusion behavior along the boundary. Using in situ ultrahigh-vacuum and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, we observed electromigration-induced atomic diffusion in the twin-modified grain boundaries. The triple point where a twin boundary meets a grain boundary was found to slow down grain-boundary and surface electromigration by one order of magnitude. We propose that this occurs because of the incubation time of nucleation of a new step at the triple points. The long incubation time slows down the overall rate of atomic transport.

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