Amorphous metallic alloys, or metallic glasses, are lucrative engineering materials owing to their superior mechanical properties such as high strength and large elastic strain. However, their main drawback is their propensity for highly catastrophic failure through rapid shear banding, significantly undercutting their structural applications. Here, we show that when reduced to 100 nm, Zr-based metallic glass nanopillars attain ceramic-like strengths (2.25 GPa) and metal-like ductility (25%) simultaneously. We report separate and distinct critical sizes for maximum strength and for the brittle-to-ductile transition, thereby demonstrating that strength and ability to carry plasticity are decoupled at the nanoscale. A phenomenological model for size dependence and brittle-to-homogeneous deformation is provided.
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The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the National Science Foundation through MRSEC (DMR-0520565) at Caltech and of the Office of Naval Research (grant no. N000140910883), as well as Kavli Nanoscience Institute at Caltech and W. L. Johnson and M. D. Demetriou for providing the bulk sample and for useful discussions.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Jang, D., Greer, J. Transition from a strong-yet-brittle to a stronger-and-ductile state by size reduction of metallic glasses. Nature Mater 9, 215–219 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat2622
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