Segregation-induced ordered superstructures at general grain boundaries in a nickel-bismuth alloy

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Science  06 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6359, pp. 97-101
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8256

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Giving grain boundaries more structure

The properties of metals change depending on the composition and structure of grain boundaries in polycrystalline materials. Yu et al. discovered a surprising grain boundary superstructure in a nickel-bismuth alloy. Previously, the structure was only known to exist in a specific type of uncommon grain boundary, and experiments had focused on bicrystals. Unexpectedly, this alloy has grain boundary superstructures across a wide range of boundaries in polycrystalline samples. This likely also occurs in other alloys, which opens an avenue for grain boundary engineering to tune the physical properties of metals and ceramics.

Science, this issue p. 97


The properties of materials change, sometimes catastrophically, as alloying elements and impurities accumulate preferentially at grain boundaries. Studies of bicrystals show that regular atomic patterns often arise as a result of this solute segregation at high-symmetry boundaries, but it is not known whether superstructures exist at general grain boundaries in polycrystals. In bismuth-doped polycrystalline nickel, we found that ordered, segregation-induced grain boundary superstructures occur at randomly selected general grain boundaries, and that these reconstructions are driven by the orientation of the terminating grain surfaces rather than by lattice matching between grains. This discovery shows that adsorbate-induced superstructures are not limited to special grain boundaries but may exist at a variety of general grain boundaries, and hence they can affect the performance of polycrystalline engineering alloys.

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