Despite numerous investigations, grain boundary (GB) embrittlement of metallic structural materials is a poorly understood fundamental phenomenon in materials science. One of the well-known examples is that minute traces of sodium induce an embrittlement in aluminum alloys that results in drastic failure and limits their applications. From first-principles density function theory calculations, we found that sodium atoms densely segregate and neighbor into the 5(012) GB in aluminum with large segregation energies and that the GB strength drops to only one fifth of the strength of the clean Al GB. Gradual sodium segregation leads to not only a large GB expansion but also to the replacement of stronger Al-Al metallic bonds with the weaker Al-Na mixed ionic-metallic bonds and Na-Na metallic bonds. This result in a drastic GB decohesion that reduces the GB tensile strength dramatically until it approaches the strength of bulk sodium. Dense segregation of sodium forms a Na film along the GB and opens an easy channel for oxidation and corrosion along the GB, which further accelerates the intergranular embrittlement.
|Journal||Physical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics|
|Publication status||Published - Jun 8 2012|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics