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Metastable phase transformation and deformation twinning induced hardening-stiffening mechanism in compression of silicon nanoparticles

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The compressive mechanical responses of silicon nanoparticles with respect to crystallographic orientations are investigated by atomistic simulations. Superelastic and abrupt hardening-stiffening behaviors are revealed in [110]-, [111]- and [112]-oriented nanoparticles. The obtained hardness values of these particles are in good agreement with the experimental results. In particular, [111]-oriented particle is extremely hard since its hardness (∼33.7 GPa) is almost three times greater than that of the bulk silicon (∼12 GPa). To understand the underlying deformation mechanisms, metastable phase transformation is detected in these particles. Deformation twinning of the metastable phase accounts for the early hardening-stiffening behavior observed in [110]-oriented particle. The twin phase then coalescences and undergoes compression to resist further deformation, and leads to the subsequent re-hardening and re-stiffening events. The same metastable phase is also detected to form in [111]- and [112]-oriented particles. The compression of such metastable phase is responsible for their hardening-stiffening behavior. In contrast, the crystal lattice of diamond cubic silicon is merely elastically deformed when compressing along [100] direction. Throughout the simulations, no perfect tetragonal β-tin silicon phase formed due to the deconfinement status of nanoparticle comparing to the bulk silicon. A size effect on hardness of silicon nanoparticles, i.e., “smaller is harder”, is also revealed.

Acta Materialia 145 (2018) 8-18

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https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1WAv94r9SU7ePB

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