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Mechanical properties of ultrahigh-strength gold nanowires


Nanowires have attracted considerable interest as nanoscale interconnects and as the active components of both electronic and electromechanical devices. Nanomechanical measurements are a challenge, but remain key to the development and processing of novel nanowire-based devices. Here, we report a general method to measure the spectrum of nanowire mechanical properties based on nanowire bending under the lateral load from an atomic force microscope tip. We find that for Au nanowires, Young's modulus is essentially independent of diameter, whereas the yield strength is largest for the smallest diameter wires, with strengths up to 100 times that of bulk materials, and substantially larger than that reported for bulk nanocrystalline metals (BNMs)1,2,3,4,5. In contrast to BNMs, nanowire plasticity is characterized by strain-hardening, demonstrating that dislocation motion and pile-up is still operative down to diameters of 40 nm. Possible origins for the different mechanical properties of nanowires and BNMs are discussed.

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Figure 1: The bending test for nanowire mechanical measurements.
Figure 2: Mechanical deformation of a 200-nm Au nanowire.
Figure 3: Measured Young's modulus and yield-strength values for Au nanowires.
Figure 4: Plastic deformation of Au nanowires.


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We thank John Monaghan and Patrick Prendergast for the valuable discussions. This work was supported by Science Foundation Ireland under grant 00/PI.1/C077A.2.

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Correspondence to John J. Boland.

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Wu, B., Heidelberg, A. & Boland, J. Mechanical properties of ultrahigh-strength gold nanowires. Nature Mater 4, 525–529 (2005).

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