Experimental Observations of Stress-Driven Grain Boundary Migration

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Science  18 Dec 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5960, pp. 1686-1690
DOI: 10.1126/science.1178226

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In crystalline materials, plastic deformation occurs by the motion of dislocations, and the regions between individual crystallites, called grain boundaries, act as obstacles to dislocation motion. Grain boundaries are widely envisaged to be mechanically static structures, but this report outlines an experimental investigation of stress-driven grain boundary migration manifested as grain growth in nanocrystalline aluminum thin films. Specimens fabricated with specially designed stress and strain concentrators are used to uncover the relative importance of these parameters on grain growth. In contrast to traditional descriptions of grain boundaries as stationary obstacles to dislocation-based plasticity, the results of this study indicate that shear stresses drive grain boundaries to move in a manner consistent with recent molecular dynamics simulations and theoretical predictions of coupled grain boundary migration.

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