Theory and experimental evidence of phonon domains and their roles in pre-martensitic phenomena

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Pre-martensitic phenomena, also called martensite precursor effects, have been known for decades while yet remain outstanding issues. This paper addresses pre-martensitic phenomena from new theoretical and experimental perspectives. A statistical mechanics-based Grüneisen-type phonon theory is developed. On the basis of deformation-dependent incompletely softened low-energy phonons, the theory predicts a lattice instability and pre-martensitic transition into elastic-phonon domains via 'phonon spinodal decomposition.' The phase transition lifts phonon degeneracy in cubic crystal and has a nature of phonon pseudo-Jahn-Teller lattice instability. The theory and notion of phonon domains consistently explain the ubiquitous pre-martensitic anomalies as natural consequences of incomplete phonon softening. The phonon domains are characterised by broken dynamic symmetry of lattice vibrations and deform through internal phonon relaxation in response to stress (a particular case of Le Chatelier's principle), leading to previously unexplored new domain phenomenon. Experimental evidence of phonon domains is obtained by in situ three-dimensional phonon diffuse scattering and Bragg reflection using high-energy synchrotron X-ray single-crystal diffraction, which observes exotic domain phenomenon fundamentally different from usual ferroelastic domain switching phenomenon. In light of the theory and experimental evidence of phonon domains and their roles in pre-martensitic phenomena, currently existing alternative opinions on martensitic precursor phenomena are revisited.

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© 2015 Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Chinese Academy of Sciences/Macmillan Publishers Limited. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

npj Computational Materials