Extreme rejuvenation and softening in a bulk metallic glass

2019-06-30 14:27:30 SUTOR EYEWEAR


Rejuvenation of metallic glasses, bringing them to higher-energy states, is of interest in improving their plasticity. The mechanisms of rejuvenation are poorly understood, and its limits remain unexplored. We use constrained loading in compression to impose substantial plastic flow on a zirconium-based bulk metallic glass. The maximum measured effects are that the hardness of the glass decreases by 36%, and its excess enthalpy (above the relaxed state) increases to 41% of the enthalpy of melting. Comparably high degrees of rejuvenation have been reported only on microscopic scales at the centre of shear bands confined to low volume fractions. This extreme rejuvenation of a bulk glass gives a state equivalent to that obtainable by quenching the liquid at ~1010 K s–1, many orders of magnitude faster than is possible for bulk specimens. The contrast with earlier results showing relaxation in similar tests under tension emphasizes the importance of hydrostatic stress.


A glass is formed on cooling a liquid (if crystallization can be avoided), faster cooling giving more disordered, higher-energy states1. The difference between the highest and lowest energies attainable in the glass at a given temperature is remarkable, nearly as large as the enthalpy of melting2. After casting, annealing allows relaxation or ageing of glassy states to lower energies, while the opposite process, rejuvenation, can be induced by reheating and faster cooling3, and, most commonly, by plastic deformation14. Deformation broadens the range of interatomic distances in a metallic glass, a clear sign of disordering opposite to the effects of relaxation5. Such studies have links with the interest, for crystalline metals, in tailoring properties by control of defect structures at a fixed composition6.

Viscous flow of metallic glasses near their glass-transition temperature Tg is homogeneous, but their plastic flow at room temperature (RT) shows an instability in which shear is sharply localized in bands that may be as thin as 10–20 nm78. This inhomogeneous deformation leads to essentially zero tensile ductility, and is the main impediment to wider structural use of metallic glasses. Rejuvenation reduces the initial yield stress and, it is speculated, could ultimately eliminate the undesirable shear-banding1. Extreme rejuvenation is also of interest in exploring the limits of glass formation and stability.

The usual inhomogeneous nature of plastic flow in metallic glasses itself limits the degree of rejuvenation that can be achieved, because the regions of significant strain occupy only a small volume fraction of the specimen. Studies of a single shear band49 show that the effects of shear can extend into the glassy matrix by some tens of micrometres, far beyond the thickness of the band itself. However, the effects (softening and increased enthalpy) are sharply peaked at the band centre, and the volume fraction of the glass that is strongly affected is small. Rejuvenation in the bands themselves is inefficient as the structural effects of deformation are likely to saturate for shear strains greater than one. Also, rejuvenated states may not be fully retained because of relaxation facilitated by local heating8.

To achieve significant flow and rejuvenation throughout a deformed metallic glass, it would be helpful for shear-banding to be suppressed. Here we show that under constraint a metallic glass can be compressed to large strains (up to 40%) in a regime of presumed homogeneous flow. The constraint is achieved in notched specimens. Previous work has shown that plastic flow in notched specimens under tension can lead to relaxation rather than rejuvenation10, and we analyse the distinction between these cases. Under compression, significant volumes of the metallic glass can attain degrees of rejuvenation previously associated only with the central plane of shear bands. The states attained can have energies so high that they would be characteristic of a glassy state obtained by quenching at ~1010 K s–1.


Stress–strain behaviour

A compressive load was applied at RT to cylindrical bulk-metallic-glass (BMG) specimens with a circumferential notch. The material in the notch region flows under triaxial constraint. Figure 1a shows a specimen with a reduction in the width of the notch by 20% after plastic flow. This apparent 20% compressive axial plastic strain in the disc defined by the notch is accompanied by an increase in the diameter of the disc of only 5.7%. The apparent volume change of the disc (~9% reduction) shows that flow cannot be confined to the disc itself, but must extend into a larger region around the notch. Only a few shear bands with horizontal traces can be observed on the surface of the notch (Fig. 1a). In contrast, the un-notched specimen at similar strain shows (Fig. 1b) many primary shear bands, as expected8 at ~45° to the loading axis.