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Nat Commun. 2010;1:144. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1149.

Discrete plasticity in sub-10-nm-sized gold crystals.

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1
Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.

Abstract

Although deformation processes in submicron-sized metallic crystals are well documented, the direct observation of deformation mechanisms in crystals with dimensions below the sub-10-nm range is currently lacking. Here, through in situ high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) observations, we show that (1) in sharp contrast to what happens in bulk materials, in which plasticity is mediated by dislocation emission from Frank-Read sources and multiplication, partial dislocations emitted from free surfaces dominate the deformation of gold (Au) nanocrystals; (2) the crystallographic orientation (Schmid factor) is not the only factor in determining the deformation mechanism of nanometre-sized Au; and (3) the Au nanocrystal exhibits a phase transformation from a face-centered cubic to a body-centered tetragonal structure after failure. These findings provide direct experimental evidence for the vast amount of theoretical modelling on the deformation mechanisms of nanomaterials that have appeared in recent years.

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