Abnormal elastic modulus behavior in a crystalline–amorphous core–shell nanowire system†
We investigated the elastic modulus behavior of crystalline InAs/amorphous Al2O3 core–shell heterostructured nanowires with shell thicknesses varying between 10 and 90 nm by conducting in situ tensile tests inside a transmission electron microscope (TEM). Counterintuitively, the elastic modulus behaviors of InAs/Al2O3 core–shell nanowires differ greatly from those of bulk-scale composite materials, free from size effects. According to our results, the elastic modulus of InAs/Al2O3 core–shell nanowires increases, peaking at a shell thickness of 40 nm, and then decreases in the range of 50–90 nm. This abnormal behavior is attributed to the continuous decrease in the elastic modulus of the Al2O3 shell as the thickness increases, which is caused by changes in the atomic/electronic structure during the atomic layer deposition process and the relaxation of residual stress/strain in the shell transferred from the interfacial mismatch between the core and shell materials. A novel method for estimating the elastic modulus of the shell in a heterostructured core–shell system was suggested by considering these two effects, and the predictions from the suggested method coincided well with the experimental results. We also found that the former and latter effects account for 89% and 11% of the change in the elastic modulus of the shell. This study provides new insight by showing that the size dependency, which is caused by the inhomogeneity of the atomic/electronic structure and the residual stress/strain, must be considered to evaluate the mechanical properties of heterostructured nanowires.