Atomic mechanism of shear localization during indentation of a nanostructured metal
F. Sansoz and V. Dupont
Materials Science & Engineering C, 27, 1509–1513 (2007).


Shear localization is an important mode of deformation in nanocrystalline metals. However, it is very difficult to verify the existence of local shear planes in nanocrystalline metals experimentally. Sharp indentation techniques may provide novel opportunities to investigate the effect of shear localization at different length scales, but the relationship between indentation response and atomic-level shear band formation has not been fully addressed. This paper describes an effort to provide direct insight on the mechanism of shear localization during indentation of nanocrystalline metals from atomistic simulations. Molecular statics is performed with the quasi-continuum method to simulate the indentation of single crystal and nanocrystalline Al with a sharp cylindrical probe. In the nanocrystalline regime, two grain sizes are investigated, 5 nm and 10 nm. We find that the indentation of nanocrystalline metals is characterized by serrated plastic flow. This effect seems to be independent of the grain size. Serration in nanocrystalline metals is found to be associated with the formation of shear bands by sliding of aligned interfaces and intragranular slip, which results in deformation twinning.