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Near-ideal theoretical strength in gold nanowires containing angstrom scale twins

Although nanoscale twinning is an effective means to enhance yield strength and tensile ductility in metals, nanotwinned metals generally prove to fail well below their theoretical strength limit due to heterogeneous dislocation nucleation from boundaries or surface imperfections. Here, we show that Au nanowires containing angstrom-scaled twins (0.7 in thickness) exhibit tensile strengths up to 3.12 GPa, near the ideal limit, with a remarkable ductile-to-brittle transition with decreasing twin size, opposite to the behaviour of metallic nanowires with lower-density twins reported so far. Ultrahigh-density twins (twin thickness < 2.8 nm) are shown to give rise to homogeneous dislocation nucleation and plastic shear localization, contrasting with the heterogeneous slip mechanism observed in single-crystalline or low-density-twinned nanowires. The twin size dependent dislocation nucleation and deformation represent a new type of size effect distinct from the sample size effects described previously. 

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