Journal article

Cast aluminium single crystals cross the threshold from bulk to size-dependent stochastic plasticity

Metals are known to exhibit mechanical behaviour at the nanoscale different to bulk samples. This transition typically initiates at the micrometre scale, yet existing techniques to produce micrometre-sized samples often introduce artefacts that can influence deformation mechanisms. Here, we demonstrate the casting of micrometre-scale aluminium single-crystal wires by infiltration of a salt mould. Samples have millimetre lengths, smooth surfaces, a range of crystallographic orientations, and a diameter D as small as 6 mu m. The wires deform in bursts, at a stress that increases with decreasing D. Bursts greater than 200nm account for roughly 50% of wire deformation and have exponentially distributed intensities. Dislocation dynamics simulations show that single-arm sources that produce large displacement bursts halted by stochastic cross-slip and lock formation explain microcast wire behaviour. This microcasting technique may be extended to several other metals or alloys and offers the possibility of exploring mechanical behaviour spanning the micrometre scale.

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