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In situ nanocompression testing of irradiated copper


Increasing demand for energy and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions has revived interest in nuclear energy. Designing materials for radiation environments necessitates a fundamental understanding of how radiation-induced defects alter mechanical properties. Ion beams create radiation damage efficiently without material activation, but their limited penetration depth requires small-scale testing. However, strength measurements of nanoscale irradiated specimens have not been previously performed. Here we show that yield strengths approaching macroscopic values are measured from irradiated ~400 nm-diameter copper specimens. Quantitative in situ nanocompression testing in a transmission electron microscope reveals that the strength of larger samples is controlled by dislocation–irradiation defect interactions, yielding size-independent strengths. Below ~400 nm, size-dependent strength results from dislocation source limitation. This transition length-scale should be universal, but depends on material and irradiation conditions. We conclude that for irradiated copper, and presumably related materials, nanoscale in situ testing can determine bulk-like yield strengths and simultaneously identify deformation mechanisms.

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Figure 1: Schematic of experimental procedure.
Figure 2: In situ TEM compression test of a (100)-oriented 118 nm diameter copper pillar irradiated to 0.8 dpa.
Figure 3: Size-dependent yield stress for (100)-oriented irradiated and unirradiated copper nanocompression samples.
Figure 4: Dark-field image of a deformed irradiated (100) copper specimen with 130 nm diameter.
Figure 5: Post deformation irradiation defect characterization using high resolution TEM.

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Funding was provided by the Berkeley Nuclear Research Centre (BNRC), established by the University of California Office of the President and the UC-National Laboratory Fee Research Program. D.K. gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) through the Erwin Schrödinger fellowship J2834-N20 and help with high-resolution imaging from Z. Zhang at the Erich Schmid Institute. The in situ TEM experiments were performed at the National Center for Electron Microscopy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is supported by the US Department of Energy under Contract # DE-AC02-05CH11231. The ion-beam irradiation was performed with the support of the staff at the Ion Beam Materials Laboratory at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The authors acknowledge inspiring discussions with T. E. Mitchell.

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D.K. and P.H. designed the research and conducted the experiments. A.M.M. helped with the interpretation of the results and all authors contributed to the writing of the paper.

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Correspondence to D. Kiener.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Kiener, D., Hosemann, P., Maloy, S. et al. In situ nanocompression testing of irradiated copper. Nature Mater 10, 608–613 (2011).

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