Microstructural evolution and mechanical properties of niobium processed by equal channel angular extrusion up to 24 passes
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We have systematically investigated the microstructural evolution of niobium (Nb) subjected to severe plastic deformation via equal channel angular extrusion (ECAE) up to 24 passes. The starting Nb billet material consists of a centimeter-scale grain size with a columnar structure. We have found that the grain size reduction of the Nb is almost saturated at ∼300 nm after eight passes of ECAE. However, the population of high-angle grain boundaries continues to increase with further ECAE, and no saturation appears to have been reached at 24 passes. We have evaluated the mechanical properties of the samples with different number of ECAE passes over a wide range of strain rates, from quasi-static to high strain rates. We have used strain-rate jump tests to examine the strain-rate sensitivity (SRS) of the processed samples and found that the SRS of the ECAE-processed Nb is ∼0.012, which is a factor of three smaller than that of the coarse-grained counterpart. The activation volume derived for plastic deformation indicates that the double-kink formation of screw dislocations is still the predominant deformation mechanism in the ECAE-processed Nb. Quasi-static true stress-strain curves exhibit elastic-nearly perfectly plastic behavior. The quasi-static yield strength is also nearly saturated after eight passes of ECAE. High-strain-rate compressive true stress-strain curves show uniform flow softening. However, the dynamic peak stress keeps rising with an increased number of ECAE passes, suggesting a strong grain boundary contribution to dynamic strengthening. Scanning electron microscopy of post-loaded surfaces displays a morphology of diffuse shear bands accompanying highly compressed grains. In our report, we demonstrate that grain boundaries of severely deformed metals play different roles at low, quasi-static vs. high-strain rates of mechanical loading. The difference is primarily determined by the strength of grain boundaries acting as dislocation barriers at different loading rates. This discovery is significant for the understanding of the effect of the microstructure as a function of the applied loading rate. © 2012 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
author list (cited authors)
Pan, Z., Xu, F., Mathaudhu, S. N., Kecskes, L. J., Yin, W. H., Zhang, X. Y., Hartwig, K. T., & Wei, Q.