Thick grain boundary induced strengthening in nanocrystalline Ni alloy†
Grain refinement has been extensively used to strengthen metallic materials for decades. Grain boundaries act as effective barriers to the transmission of dislocations, consequently leading to strengthening. Conventional grain boundaries have a thickness of 1–2 atomic layers, typically ∼0.5 nm for most metallic materials. Here, we report, however, the formation of ∼3 nm thick grain boundaries in a nanocrystalline Ni alloy. In situ micropillar compression studies coupled with molecular dynamics simulations suggest that the thick grain boundaries are stronger barriers than conventional grain boundaries to the transmission of dislocations. This study provides a fresh perspective for the design of high strength, deformable nanostructured metallic materials.