Classical fracture mechanics as well as modern strain gradient plasticity theories assert the existence of stress concentration (or strain gradient) ahead of a notch tip, albeit somewhat relaxed in ductile materials. In this study, we present experimental evidence of extreme stress homogenization in nanocrystalline metals that result in immeasurable amount of stress concentration at a notch tip. We performed in situ uniaxial tension tests of 80 nm thick (50 nm average grain size) freestanding, single edge notched aluminum specimens inside a transmission electron microscope. The theoretical stress concentration for the given notch geometry was as high as 8, yet electron diffraction patterns unambiguously showed absence of any measurable stress concentration at the notch tip. To identify possible mechanisms behind such an anomaly, we performed molecular dynamics simulations on scaled down samples. Extensive grain rotation driven by grain boundary diffusion, exemplified by an Ashby - Verrall type of grain switching process, was observed at the notch tip to relieve stress concentration. We conclude that in the absence of dislocations, grain realignment or rotation may have played a critical role in accommodating externally applied strain and neutralizes any stress concentration during the process.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Mechanical Engineering