Real-time nanoscale observation of deformation mechanisms in CrCoNi-based medium- to high-entropy alloys at cryogenic temperatures

Abstract: Technologically important mechanical properties of engineering materials often degrade at low temperatures. One class of materials that defy this trend are CrCoNi-based medium- and high-entropy alloys, as they display enhanced strength, ductility, and toughness with decreasing temperature. Here we show, using in situ straining in the transmission electron microscope at 93?K (−180?°C) that their exceptional damage tolerance involves a synergy of deformation mechanisms, including twinning, glide of partials and full dislocations, extensive cross-slip, and multiple slip activated by dislocation and grain-boundary interactions. In particular, massive cross-slip occurs at the early stages of plastic deformation, thereby promoting multiple slip and dislocation interactions. These results indicate that the reduced intensity of thermal activation of defects at low temperatures and the required increase of applied stress for continued plastic flow, together with high lattice resistance, play a pivotal role in promoting the concurrent operation of multiple deformation mechanisms, which collectively enable the outstanding mechanical properties of these alloys.