Jonathan Ligda

Ligda 2013
Dissertation Defense

Effects of grain size on the quasi-static mechanical properties of ultrafine-grained and nanocrystalline tantalum


 The increase in strength due to the Hall-Petch effect, reduced strain hardening capacity, a reduced ductility, and changes in deformation mechanisms are all effects of reducing grain size (d) into the ultrafine-grained (UFG, 100 < d < 1000 nm) and nanocrystalline (NC, d<100 nm) state. However, most of the studies on the mechanical behavior of UFG/NC metals have been on face-centered cubic (FCC) metals. Of the few reports on UFG/NC body-centered cubic (BCC) metals, the interest is related to their increase in strength and reduced strain rate sensitivity. This combination increases their propensity to deform via adiabatic shear bands (ASBs) at high strain rates, which is a desired response for materials being considered as a possible replacement for depleted uranium in kinetic energy penetrators. However, an ideal replacement material must also plastically deform in tension under quasi-static rates to survive initial launch conditions. This raises the question: if the material forms ASBs at dynamic rates, will it also form shear bands at quasi-static isothermal rates? As well as, is there a specific grain size for a material that will plastically deform in tension at quasi-static rates but form adiabatic shear bands at dynamic rates?

Using high pressure torsion, a polycrystalline bulk tantalum disk was refined into the UFG/NC regime. Using microscale mechanical testing techniques, such as nanoindentation, microcompression, and microtension, it is possible to isolate locations with a homogeneous grain size within the disk. Pillars are compressed using a nanoindenter with a flat punch tip, while "dog-bone" specimens were pulled in tension using a custom built in-situ tension stage within a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The observed mechanical behavior is related to the microstructure by using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) on the as-processed material and tested specimens. Synchrotron X-ray based texture analysis was also conducted on the disk to determine if any changes in the deformation texture occur during HPT processing.

Nanoindentation data shows a trend of increasing hardness with radial position that saturates at 4.5 GPa near the edge, and decreasing strain rate sensitivity. The micromechanical tests show two distinct regions on a processed circular disk, a non-shearing region and a shearing region. Microcompression/tension tests in the region of 1.0< X < 5.3 mm (X is the radial distance from the disk center) show limited strain hardening, homogeneous plastic deformation, and tensile elongation that varies from 0.3–4.0%. Tests performed at X > 5.3 mm show a drastic switch to localized plastic deformation in the form of shear bands, with evidence of grain rotation as the active deformation mechanism, and a measureable tension-compression asymmetry.

Grains are elongated at all locations, and while the minimum diameters are consistent between regions, the elongated diameter in the shearing region is reduced. The transition to localized deformation is attributed to this reduced dimension. A larger percentage of grains in the shearing region have an elongated diameter below the critical grain size necessary to activate the grain rotation mechanism. The tension-compression asymmetry is due to an increased dependence on the normal stress for yielding, meaning NC Ta would follow a Mohr-Coulomb criterion over the traditional Tresca or von Mises. 

Sponsoring Chair: Dr. Qiuming Wei 
Committee: Dr. Brian Schuster, Dr. Terry Xu, Dr. Stuart Smith, Dr. Barry Sherlock 

Read Jonathan's thesis here.