Periodic Segregation of Solute Atoms in Fully Coherent Twin Boundaries

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Science  24 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6135, pp. 957-960
DOI: 10.1126/science.1229369

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The Strength of Impurities

The practical strength of a material (rather than its theoretical strength) is influenced by the presence of defects between crystalline domains and the inclusion of impurities. In some cases, synergistic effects may arise where the impurity atoms segregate to the domain boundaries, although kinetic barriers may limit the extent to which the impurity atoms can order. Nie et al. (p. 957) show the segregation of oversized and undersized solute atoms at coherent twin boundaries in a magnesium alloy. The minimization of strain energy drives the differently sized impurities to different twin boundaries, strengthening the material.


The formability and mechanical properties of many engineering alloys are intimately related to the formation and growth of twins. Understanding the structure and chemistry of twin boundaries at the atomic scale is crucial if we are to properly tailor twins to achieve a new range of desired properties. We report an unusual phenomenon in magnesium alloys that until now was thought unlikely: the equilibrium segregation of solute atoms into patterns within fully coherent terraces of deformation twin boundaries. This ordered segregation provides a pinning effect for twin boundaries, leading to a concomitant but unusual situation in which annealing strengthens rather than weakens these alloys. The findings point to a platform for engineering nano-twinned structures through solute atoms. This may lead to new alloy compositions and thermomechanical processes.

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