Quantitative prediction of solute strengthening in aluminium alloys
Despite significant advances in computational materials science, a quantitative, parameter-free prediction of the mechanical properties of alloys has been difficult to achieve from first principles. Here, we present a new analytic theory that, with input from first-principles calculations, is able to predict the strengthening of aluminium by substitutional solute atoms. Solute-dislocation interaction energies in and around the dislocation core are first calculated using density functional theory and a flexible-boundary-condition method. An analytic model for the strength, or stress to move a dislocation, owing to the random field of solutes, is then presented. The theory, which has no adjustable parameters and is extendable to other metallic alloys, predicts both the energy barriers to dislocation motion and the zero-temperature flow stress, allowing for predictions of finite-temperature flow stresses. Quantitative comparisons with experimental flow stresses at temperature T = 78 K are made for Al-X alloys (X = Mg, Si, Cu, Cr) and good agreement is obtained.