Precipitate hardening is a key strengthening mechanism in metallic alloys. Classical models for precipitate hardening are based on the average behaviour of an ensemble of precipitates, and fail to capture the complexity of dislocation-precipitate interactions that have recently been observed at individual precipitates in simulations and in-situ electron microscopy. In order to achieve tailored mechanical properties, detailed deformation mechanisms at specific precipitates that account for precipitate size, crystallography, and defect structure must be understood, but has been challenging to achieve experimentally. Here, in-situ scanning electron microscope mechanical testing is used to obtain the compressive stress–strain behaviour at an individual, incoherent Au precipitate within a Cu nanocube, and determine the influence of precipitate and cube size on yield strength and strain hardening. TEM imaging and strain mapping of the initial structure shows misfit dislocations at the Au precipitate, threading dislocations that traverse the Cu shell, and localised and anisotropic strain near the precipitate and threading dislocation. These nanocubes have yield strengths of 800–1000 MPa and strain hardening rate of 1–4 GPa. Yield strength is found to depend on the distance from the precipitate interface to the cube edge, while strain hardening depends on both cube size and precipitate size. An analytical model is developed to quantify the contribution of Orowan looping, Orowan stress, back stress and image stress to plasticity at the Au precipitate. Orowan stress is found to be the largest contributor, followed by back stress and image stress.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics