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In situ X-ray diffraction measurement of shock-wave-driven twinning and lattice dynamics


Pressure-driven shock waves in solid materials can cause extreme damage and deformation. Understanding this deformation and the associated defects that are created in the material is crucial in the study of a wide range of phenomena, including planetary formation and asteroid impact sites1,2,3, the formation of interstellar dust clouds4, ballistic penetrators5, spacecraft shielding6 and ductility in high-performance ceramics7. At the lattice level, the basic mechanisms of plastic deformation are twinning (whereby crystallites with a mirror-image lattice form) and slip (whereby lattice dislocations are generated and move), but determining which of these mechanisms is active during deformation is challenging. Experiments that characterized lattice defects8,9,10,11 have typically examined the microstructure of samples after deformation, and so are complicated by post-shock annealing12 and reverberations. In addition, measurements have been limited to relatively modest pressures (less than 100 gigapascals). In situ X-ray diffraction experiments can provide insights into the dynamic behaviour of materials13, but have only recently been applied to plasticity during shock compression14,15,16,17 and have yet to provide detailed insight into competing deformation mechanisms. Here we present X-ray diffraction experiments with femtosecond resolution that capture in situ, lattice-level information on the microstructural processes that drive shock-wave-driven deformation. To demonstrate this method we shock-compress the body-centred-cubic material tantalum—an important material for high-energy-density physics owing to its high shock impedance and high X-ray opacity. Tantalum is also a material for which previous shock compression simulations18,19,20 and experiments8,9,10,11,12 have provided conflicting information about the dominant deformation mechanism. Our experiments reveal twinning and related lattice rotation occurring on the timescale of tens of picoseconds. In addition, despite the common association between twinning and strong shocks21, we find a transition from twinning to dislocation-slip-dominated plasticity at high pressure (more than 150 gigapascals), a regime that recovery experiments cannot accurately access. The techniques demonstrated here will be useful for studying shock waves and other high-strain-rate phenomena, as well as a broad range of processes induced by plasticity.

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Figure 1: Experimental configuration for shock compression and in situ X-ray diffraction.
Figure 2: Example X-ray diffraction data from (110)-fibre-textured tantalum before shock loading.
Figure 3: Diffraction patterns from tantalum from different shock-compression experiments.
Figure 4: Twin fraction, rotation angle and plastic strain computed from the diffraction data from separate shock experiments.

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We thank P. Mirkarimi and C. Davis for preparing the targets. This work was performed under the auspices of the US Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under contract number DE-AC52-07NA27344, and Los Alamos National Laboratory under contract number DE-AC52-06NA25396. Use of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, is supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under contract number DE-AC02-76SF00515. The MEC instrument is supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences under contract number SF00515. This material is based on work supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, under award number DE-SCW-1507. J.S.W. is grateful to the UK EPSRC for support under grant EP/J017256/1. D.M. and M. Sliwa were supported by LLNS under contract numbers B595954 and B609694, respectively.

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Authors and Affiliations



The experiments were conceived by C.E.W., D.M., B.A.R., A.H., M.Su., R.E.R. and J.S.W., and were performed by C.E.W., D.M., B.A.R., A.H., J.S.W., H.-S.P., D.S., A.L., C.B., H.J.L., B.N. and F.T. The data were analysed by C.E.W., D.M., A.L. and M. Sliwa and the results were interpreted by C.E.W., D.M., M. Suggit, A.H., B.A.R., J.S.W. and R.E.R. Molecular dynamics simulations were performed by D.M., A.H., L.Z.-R. and R.E.R. The manuscript was written by C.E.W., B.A.R., R.E.R., J.S.W. and D.M.

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Correspondence to C. E. Wehrenberg.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Diffraction angle (2θ) versus X-ray counts averaged over 2π in azimuthal angle for a shock pressure of 73 GPa.

The indices of the ambient pattern, which match the bcc phase with lattice parameter a = 3.308 Å, are marked in green. The driven pattern (black dots) matches the bcc phase with a = 3.051 Å. Indexed peak positions for the hexagonal phase are marked with red lines, and peaks corresponding to the ‘rumpled’ structure9 are marked with an asterisk. The bcc and hexagonal phases both overlap the observed peaks, but additional peaks are expected for the hexagonal phase that are not observed.

Extended Data Figure 2 Diffraction pattern for a 73-GPa shock.

The left panel shows the raw data; the bcc and hexagonal phases are overplotted on the right. The ambient bcc phase is marked in blue. The compressed and rotated bcc phase is marked in black, and the expected positions of the hexagonal phase are marked in white.

Extended Data Figure 3 Example VISAR streak image for a 130-GPa shock using a 250 μm phase plate.

The planar region of the shock, which is roughly similar in dimensions to the phase plate, breaks out of the tantalum free surface at 7.4 ns. The X-ray beam probes a 20-μm region in the centre of the planar shock.

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Wehrenberg, C., McGonegle, D., Bolme, C. et al. In situ X-ray diffraction measurement of shock-wave-driven twinning and lattice dynamics. Nature 550, 496–499 (2017).

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