In-situ atomic force microscopy observation revealing gel-like plasticity on a metallic glass surface

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  • Y. M. Lu
  • J. F. Zeng
  • S. Y. Kuan
  • W. H. Wang
  • M. X. Pan


Original languageEnglish
Article number095304
Journal / PublicationJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number9
Online published2 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2017



It has been decade-long and enduring efforts to decipher the structural mechanism of plasticity in metallic glasses; however, it still remains a challenge to directly reveal the structural change, if any, that precedes; and dominant plastics flow in them. Here, by using the dynamic atomic force microscope as an “imaging” as well as a “forcing” tool, we unfold a real-time sequence of structural evolution occurring on the surface of an Au-Si thin film metallic glass. In sharp contrast to the common notion that plasticity comes along with mechanical softening in bulk metallic glasses, our experimental results directly reveal three types of nano-sized surface regions, which undergo plasticity but exhibit different characters of structural evolution following the local plasticity events, including stochastic structural rearrangement, unusual local relaxation and rejuvenation. As such, yielding on the metallic-glass surface manifests as a dynamic equilibrium between local relaxation and rejuvenation as opposed to shear instability in bulk metallic-glasses. Our finding demonstrates that plasticity on the metallic glass surface of Au-Si metallic glass bears much resemblance to that of the colloidal gels, of which nonlinear rheology rather than shear instability governs the constitutive behavior of plasticity.

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