Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Advisor 1

Stephen A. Hackney

Advisor 2

Erik G. Herbert

Committee Member 1

Stephen L. Kampe

Committee Member 2

John A. Jaszczak


Grain boundary segregation is well known to cause significant embrittlement of alloys. But in certain cases, it has also been observed to increase mechanical strength. This project attempts to assess local mechanical behavior of specific grain boundaries with and without segregation in order to understand association between grain boundary chemistry and deformation mechanism utilizing instrumented nanoindentation technique. It is hypothesized that solute segregation strongly affects the grain boundary energy which in turn affects the deformation mechanism processes. This project also utilizes a unique ability provided by the instrumented indentation technique to interrogate local grain boundary strengthening mechanisms proposed by Hall-Petch and Taylor-Ashby using two different indentation geometries.

Grain boundary mechanical properties have typically been interpolated from macroscopic mechanical testing on polycrystalline materials, or alternatively, mechanical test procedures carried out on bulk bicrystals. The disadvantages to these types of studies relate to the difficulty in extracting the local response of a particular grain boundary (in the case of polycrystalline materials) or the grain boundary region (in the case of a bicrystal material) from the overall response of the complex interaction between the presence of the grain boundary and the deformation behavior far from the grain boundary. That is, the grain boundary causes a non-local response to the mechanical behavior. This non-local response is particularly evident in bicrystal deformation, where the macroscopic plastic displacement is inconsistent with that observed for single crystal deformation. Moreover, local hardness testing of grain boundary regions in macroscopically deformed materials show that the deformation in the grain boundary region is leads to greater local dislocation density than found in the grain center.

This project is designed to use nanoindentation to isolate the mechanical response of the grain boundary as the dependent variable, where indentation geometry, indentation rate, grain boundary misorientation and sample chemistry are the independent experimental variables. It is proposed that this approach can provide insight into long standing hypotheses regarding grain boundary strengthening mechanisms, including the Hall-Petch pile-up theory, grain boundary source theory, grain boundary layer theory and the Ashby-Taylor strain incompatibility theory.