Universality of grain boundary phases in fcc metals: Case study on high-angle [111] symmetric tilt grain boundaries

Tobias Brink, Lena Langenohl, Hanna Bishara, Gerhard Dehm

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Grain boundaries often exhibit ordered atomic structures. Increasing amounts of evidence have been provided by transmission electron microscopy and atomistic computer simulations that different stable and metastable grain boundary structures can occur. Meanwhile, theories to treat them thermodynamically as grain boundary phases have been developed. Whereas atomic structures were identified at particular grain boundaries for particular materials, it remains an open question if these structures and their thermodynamic excess properties are material specific or generalizable to, e.g., all fcc metals. In order to elucidate that question, we use atomistic simulations with classical interatomic potentials to investigate a range of high-angle [111¯] symmetric tilt grain boundaries in Ni, Cu, Pd, Ag, Au, Al, and Pb. We could indeed find two families of grain boundary phases in all of the investigated grain boundaries, which cover most of the standard fcc materials. Where possible, we compared the atomic structures to atomic-resolution electron microscopy images and found that the structures match. This poses the question if the grain boundary phases are simply the result of sphere-packing geometry or if material-specific bonding physics play a role. We tested this using simple model pair potentials and found that medium-ranged interactions are required to reproduce the atomic structures, while the more realistic material models mostly affect the grain boundary (free) energy. In addition to the structural investigation, we also report the thermodynamic excess properties of the grain boundaries, explore how they influence the thermodynamic stability of the grain boundary phases, and detail the commonalities and differences between the materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number054103
JournalPhysical Review B
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
European Research Council
Horizon 2020787446


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