In situ TEM measurement of activation volume in ultrafine grained gold†
A micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) based technique is demonstrated for in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) measurements of stress relaxation with simultaneous observation of the underlying plastic deformation processes. True activation volumes are determined from repeated stress relaxation transients and thus provide a signature parameter of the governing mechanisms of plastic deformation. The technique is demonstrated with 100 nm-thick ultrafine-grained gold microspecimens under uniaxial tension. True activation volumes of approximately 3–5b3 (where b is the Burgers vector length) are obtained for tensile stresses ranging from 200–450 MPa. Grain boundary-dislocation interactions are observed via in situ TEM during stress relaxation measurements. The miniaturization of stress relaxation tests inside the TEM provides unique opportunities to characterize the plastic kinetics and underlying mechanisms in ultrafine-grained and nanocrystalline materials.