Critical length scales for chemical heterogeneity at Cu/Nb 3D interfaces by atom probe tomography

Zezhou Li, Justin Y Cheng, Jonathan D. Poplawsky, Shuozhi Xu, Jon K. Baldwin, Irene J. Beyerlein, Nathan A. Mara

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3 Scopus citations


Cu/Nb nanocomposites containing sharp, two-dimensional (2D) interfaces have outstanding strength but limited deformability. In contrast, Cu/Nb with three dimensional (3D) biphase interfaces exhibiting crystallographic, topological, and chemical variations in all spatial dimensions overcomes this limitation by simultaneously enhancing material strength and deformability. While structural characterization of 3D interfaces has been performed to understand their mechanical behavior, three dimensional chemical characterization of such interfaces is lacking. In this work we quantify the local chemistry of 3D interfaces in Cu/Nb nanocomposites using atom probe tomography (APT). Our analysis demonstrates chemical heterogeneities along all spatial dimensions in 3D interfaces, establishes the length scale of such features, and quantifies the morphology of 3D interfaces. 3D interface heterogeneities form by surface diffusion during physical vapor deposition (PVD), suggesting that deposition parameters can be used to control interface structure and provide unique ways to explore processing-structure-property relationships in interface-dominated nanocomposites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115078
JournalScripta Materialia
StatePublished - Jan 15 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This manuscript has been authored by UT-Battelle, LLC under Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 with the U.S. Department of Energy. The United States Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the United States Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, world-wide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript, or allow others to do so, for United States Government purposes. The Department of Energy will provide public access to these results of federally sponsored research in accordance with the DOE Public Access Plan ( ).

Funding Information:
This work is supported by DOE BES DE-SC0020133 Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences. J.Y. Cheng is supported in part by DOE NNSA under cooperative agreement number DE-NA0003960 . APT research was supported by the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS), which is a US Department of Energy, Office of Science User Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The authors would like to thank James Burns for assistance in performing APT sample preparation and running the APT experiments. Samples were synthesized at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, an Office of Science User Facility operated for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Los Alamos National Laboratory, an affirmative action equal opportunity employer, is managed by Triad National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s NNSA, under contract 89233218CNA000001. Parts of this work were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from the NSF through the MRSEC (Award Number DMR-2011401 ) and the NNCI (Award Number ECCS-2025124 ) programs.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • 3D interfaces
  • Atom probe tomography
  • Cu/Nb nanolaminates
  • Physical vapor deposition
  • Surface diffusion

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