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Nanowires: The long and short of breaking

Date:
September 12, 2012
Source:
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Summary:
Mechanical failure of short nanowires is characterized by smooth, ductile deformations, while long nanowires fail catastrophically, according to new research.

Mechanical failure of short nanowires is characterized by smooth, ductile deformations, while long nanowires fail catastrophicall, according to new research.

Most materials will break when a force is applied to an imperfection in their structure -- such as a notch or dislocation. The behavior of these imperfections, and the resulting breakage, differ markedly between small structures, such as nanowires, and larger, bulk materials. However, scientists lacked complete understanding of the precise mechanics of nanowire breakages, owing in part to inconsistent behavior in experiments. These inconsistencies are now resolved thanks to numerical simulations by Zhaoxuan Wu and his co-workers at the A*STAR Institute for High Performance Computing, Singapore, and collaborators in the USA1.

The researchers focused on metal nanowires with a so-called 'face-centered cubic crystal structure' because they exhibit two different failure modes. Previous experiments by other groups showed that these nanowires can break as the result of a ductile process, in which a narrow neck is formed smoothly and continuously before failure. Other experiments showed that the failure was caused by a brittle fracture, which happened suddenly. To complicate matters further, atom-scale simulations of these experiments predicted that only ductile necking should be occurring.

Most materials will break when a force is applied to an imperfection in their structure -- such as a notch or dislocation. The behavior of these imperfections, and the resulting breakage, differ markedly between small structures, such as nanowires, and larger, bulk materials. However, scientists lacked complete understanding of the precise mechanics of nanowire breakages, owing in part to inconsistent behavior in experiments. These inconsistencies are now resolved thanks to numerical simulations by Zhaoxuan Wu and his co-workers at the A*STAR Institute for High Performance Computing, Singapore, and collaborators in the USA (1).

The researchers focused on metal nanowires with a so-called 'face-centered cubic crystal structure' because they exhibit two different failure modes. Previous experiments by other groups showed that these nanowires can break as the result of a ductile process, in which a narrow neck is formed smoothly and continuously before failure. Other experiments showed that the failure was caused by a brittle fracture, which happened suddenly. To complicate matters further, atom-scale simulations of these experiments predicted that only ductile necking should be occurring.

The A*STAR-affiliated researchers contributing to this research are from the Institute for High Performance Computing.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zhaoxuan Wu, Yong-Wei Zhang, Mark H. Jhon, Huajian Gao, David J. Srolovitz. Nanowire Failure: Long = Brittle and Short = Ductile. Nano Letters, 2012; 12 (2): 910 DOI: 10.1021/nl203980u

Cite This Page:

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). "Nanowires: The long and short of breaking." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912093015.htm>.
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). (2012, September 12). Nanowires: The long and short of breaking. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912093015.htm
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). "Nanowires: The long and short of breaking." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912093015.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

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