Recent developments of nanostructured materials with grain sizes in the nanometer to submicrometer range have provided ground for numerous functional properties and new applications. However, in terms of mechanical properties, bulk nanostructured materials typically show poor ductility despite their high strength, which limits their use for structural applications. The present article shows that the poor ductility of nanostructured alloys can be changed to room-temperature superplastisity by a transition in the deformation mechanism from dislocation activity to grain-boundary sliding. We report the first observation of room-temperature superplasticity (over 400% tensile elongations) in a nanostructured Al alloy by enhanced grain-boundary sliding. The room-temperature grain-boundary sliding and superplasticity was realized by engineering the Zn segregation along the Al/Al boundaries through severe plastic deformation. This work introduces a new boundary-based strategy to improve the mechanical properties of nanostructured materials for structural applications, where high deformability is a requirement.
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