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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jul 10;115(28):7224-7229. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1807817115. Epub 2018 Jun 26.

Dynamically reinforced heterogeneous grain structure prolongs ductility in a medium-entropy alloy with gigapascal yield strength.

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State Key Laboratory of Nonlinear Mechanics, Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 100190 Beijing, China.
School of Engineering Science, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, 100049 Beijing, China.
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218
State Key Laboratory of Nonlinear Mechanics, Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 100190 Beijing, China;


Ductility, i.e., uniform strain achievable in uniaxial tension, diminishes for materials with very high yield strength. Even for the CrCoNi medium-entropy alloy (MEA), which has a simple face-centered cubic (FCC) structure that would bode well for high ductility, the fine grains processed to achieve gigapascal strength exhaust the strain hardening ability such that, after yielding, the uniform tensile strain is as low as ∼2%. Here we purposely deploy, in this MEA, a three-level heterogeneous grain structure (HGS) with grain sizes spanning the nanometer to micrometer range, imparting a high yield strength well in excess of 1 GPa. This heterogeneity results from this alloy's low stacking fault energy, which facilitates corner twins in recrystallization and stores deformation twins and stacking faults during tensile straining. After yielding, the elastoplastic transition through load transfer and strain partitioning among grains of different sizes leads to an upturn of the strain hardening rate, and, upon further tensile straining at room temperature, corner twins evolve into nanograins. This dynamically reinforced HGS leads to a sustainable strain hardening rate, a record-wide hysteresis loop in load-unload-reload stress-strain curve and hence high back stresses, and, consequently, a uniform tensile strain of 22%. As such, this HGS achieves, in a single-phase FCC alloy, a strength-ductility combination that would normally require heterogeneous microstructures such as in dual-phase steels.


back stress hardening; ductility; heterogeneous grain structure; medium-entropy alloy

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