Articles written in Bulletin of Materials Science
Volume 17 Issue 4 August 1994 pp 307-346
The present article reviews the current status of research and development on the structure and properties of nanocrystalline materials. Nanocrystalline materials are polycrystalline materials with grain sizes of up to about 100 nm. Because of the extremely small dimensions, a large fraction of the atoms in these materials is located at the grain boundaries, and this confers special attributes. Nanocrystalline materials can be prepared by inert gas-condensation, mechanical alloying, plasma deposition, spray conversion processing, and many other methods. These have been briefly reviewed.
A clear picture of the structure of nanocrystalline materials is emerging only now. Whereas the earlier studies reasoned out that the structure of grain boundaries in nanocrystalline materials was quite different from that in coarse-grained materials, recent studies using spectroscopy, high-resolution electron microscopy, and computer simulation techniques showed unambiguously that the structure of the grain boundaries is the same in both nanocrystalline and coarse-grained materials. A critical analysis of this aspect and grain growth is presented.
The properties of nanocrystalline materials are very often superior to those of conventional polycrystalline coarse-grained materials. Nanocrystalline materials exhibit increased strength/hardness, enhanced diffusivity, improved ductility/toughness, reduced density, reduced elastic modulus, higher electrical resistivity, increased specific heat, higher thermal expansion coefficient, lower thermal conductivity, and superior soft magnetic properties in comparison to conventional coarse-grained materials. Recent results on these properties, with special emphasis on mechanical properties, have been discussed.
New concepts of nanocomposites and nanoglasses are also being investigated with special emphasis on ceramic composites to increase their strength and toughness. Even though no components made of nanocrystalline materials are in use in any application now, there appears to be a great potential for applications in the near future. The extensive investigations in recent years on structure-property correlations in nanocrystalline materials have begun to unravel the complexities of these materials, and paved the way for successful exploitation of the alloy design principles to synthesize better materials than hitherto available.
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