F. Sansoz and J. F. Molinari
Acta Materialia, 53, 1931–1944 (2005).
Molecular simulations using the quasicontinuum method are performed to understand the mechanical response at the nanoscale of grain boundaries (GBs) under simple shear. The energetics and mechanical strength of 18 Sigma (I 10) symmetric tilt GBs and two Sigma < 110 > asymmetric tilt GBs are investigated in Cu and Al. Special emphasis is placed on the evolution of far-field shear stresses under applied strain and related deformation mechanisms at zero temperature. The deformation of the boundaries is found to operate by three modes depending on the GB equilibrium configuration: GB sliding by uncorrelated atomic shuffling, nucleation of partial dislocations from the interface to the grains, and GB migration. This investigation shows that (1) the GB energy alone cannot be used as a relevant parameter to predict the sliding of nanoscale high-angle boundaries when no thermally activated mechanisms are involved; (2) the E structural unit present in the period of Sigma tilt GBs is found to be responsible for the onset of sliding by atomic shuffling; (3) GB sliding strength in the athermal limit shows slight variations between the different interface configurations, but has no apparent correlation with the GB structure; (4) the metal potential plays a determinant role in the relaxation of stress after sliding, but does not influence the GB sliding strength; here it is suggested that the metal potential has a stronger impact on crystal slip than on the intrinsic interface behavior. These findings provide additional insights on the role of GB structure in the deformation processes of nanocrystalline metals.