U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Acta Materialia, 59, (2011), 2423–2436


Fully dense, nanocrystalline tantalum (average grain size as small as ~40 nm) has been processed for the first time by high-pressure torsion. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy reveals non-equilibrium grain boundaries and grains decorated with high-density dislocations. Microhardness measurements and instrumented nanoindentation experiments indicate that the mechanical property is quite uniform except for the central area of the disks. Nanoindentation experiments at different strain rates suggest that the strain rate sensitivity of nanocrystalline tantalum is increased compared to the coarse- and ultrafine-grained counterparts and is accompanied by an activation energy of the order of a few ~b3 (b is the magnitude of the dislocation Burgers vector), implying a shift in the plastic deformation mechanism from the screw dislocation dominated regime. We thus infer the plastic deformation mechanisms of nanocrystalline body-centered cubic (bcc) and face-centered cubic metals converge. To examine the stress–strain behavior, we have used microcompression to measure the compressive stress–strain curves on microscale pillars fabricated by focused ion beam technique. Yield strength as high as 1.6 GPa has been observed. High-strain rate behavior has been investigated using a miniature Kolsky bar system. We have found that at high-strain rates the nanocrystalline tantalum specimens exhibit adiabatic shear banding, a dynamic plastic deformation mode common to many ultrafine-grained and all nanocrystalline bcc metals.