International Journal of Plasticity

Discrete dislocation dynamics simulations to interpret plasticity size and surface effects in freestanding FCC thin films

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Strong size effects have been experimentally observed when microstructural features approach the geometric dimensions of the sample. In this work experimental investigations and discrete dislocation analyses of plastic deformation in metallic thin films have been performed. Columnar grains representative of the film microstructure are here considered. Simulations are based on the assumptions that sources are scarcely available in geometrically confined systems and nucleation sites are mainly located at grain boundaries. Especially, we investigated the influence on the mesoscopic constitutive response of the two characteristic length scales, i.e., film thickness and grain size. The simulated plastic response qualitatively reproduces the experimentally observed size effects while the main deformation mechanisms appear to be in agreement with TEM analyses of tested samples. A new interpretation of size scale plasticity is here proposed based on the probability of activating grain boundary dislocation sources. Moreover, the key role of a parameter such as the grain aspect ratio is highlighted. Finally, the unloading behavior has been investigated and a strong size dependent Bauschinger effect has been found. An interpretation of these phenomena is proposed based on the analysis of the back stress distribution within the samples. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.