Phase transformations in nanograin materials under high pressure and plastic shear: nanoscale mechanisms†
There are two main challenges in the discovery of new high pressure phases (HPPs) and transforming this discovery into technologies: finding conditions to synthesize new HPPs and finding ways to reduce the phase transformation (PT) pressure to an economically reasonable level. Based on the results of pressure–shear experiments in the rotational diamond anvil cell (RDAC), superposition of plastic shear on high pressure is a promising way to resolve these problems. However, physical mechanisms behind these phenomena are not yet understood. Here, we elucidate generic mechanisms of coupled nucleation and evolution of dislocation and HPP structures in the nanograin material under pressure and shear utilizing the developed advanced phase field approach (PFA). Dislocations are generated at the grain boundaries and are densely piled up near them, creating a strong concentrator of the stress tensor. Averaged shear stress is essentially larger in the nanograin material due to grain boundary strengthening. This leads to the increase in the local thermodynamic driving force for PT, which allows one to significantly reduce the applied pressure. For all cases, the applied pressure is 3–20 times lower than the PT pressure and 2–12.5 times smaller than the phase equilibrium pressure. Interaction between nuclei leads sometimes to their coalescence and growth of the HPP away from stress concentrators. Plasticity plays a dual role: in addition to creating stress concentrators, it may relax stresses at other concentrators, thus competing with PT. Some ways to optimize the loading parameters have been found that lead to methods for controlling PT. Since such a local stress tensor with high shear stress component cannot be created without plastic deformations, this may lead to new transformation paths and phases, which are hidden during pressure induced PTs.