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Consideration of Orowan strengthening eect in

particulate-reinforced metal matrix nanocomposites:


A model for predicting their yield strength
Z. Zhang, D.L. Chen
*
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ont., Canada M5B 2K3
Received 28 October 2005; received in revised form 17 November 2005; accepted 8 December 2005
Available online 18 January 2006
Abstract
An analytical model for predicting the yield strength of particulate-reinforced metal matrix nanocomposites has been developed. The
strengthening eects involving (i) Orowan strengthening eect, (ii) enhanced dislocation density due to the residual plastic strain caused
by the dierence in the coecients of thermal expansion between the matrix and particles, and (iii) load-bearing eect have been taken
into account in the model. The prediction is in good agreement with the experimental data reported in the literature.
2006 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Metal matrix nanocomposites; Yield strength; Orowan strengthening; Load-bearing eect; Enhanced dislocation density strengthening
1. Introduction
Nanocrystalline materials form an exciting area of mate-
rials research because bulk materials with grain sizes of less
than 100 nm have properties that are not seen in their
microcrystalline counterparts [1,2]. However, nanostruc-
tured materials generally suer from insucient ductility
and reduced toughness compared with the conventional
microcrystalline materials. On the other hand, metal matrix
nanocomposites (MMNCs) are most promising in produc-
ing balanced mechanical properties between nano- and
micro-structured materials, i.e., enhanced hardness,
Youngs modulus, 0.2% yield strength, ultimate tensile
strength and ductility [39], due to the addition of nano-
sized reinforcement particles into the matrix.
To facilitate the development of MMNCs, it is necessary
to develop constitutive relationships that can be used to
predict the bulk mechanical properties of MMNCs as a
function of the reinforcement, matrix, and processing con-
ditions. In the past few years, some modeling work [1013]
has been done in this regard. Fan et al. [10] proposed a
generalized law of mixture by using a rigorous continuum
mechanics analysis and an equivalent microstructural
transformation approach. He et al. [11] and Holtz et al.
[12] qualitatively explained their results using Fan et al.s
model. Lurie et al. [13] developed a continuum mechanics
model by consideration of interactions between the nano-
particles and the matrix. However, in order to use the con-
tinuum mechanics approach the authors [1013] tried to
modify the interface between the matrix and reinforcement
particles. The diculty with the continuum approach is
that it ignores the inuence of particles on the microme-
chanics of deformation and strengthening mechanisms,
such as the location of particles, grain size, and dislocation
density [14]. That is to say, the strengthening mechanisms
or the types of MMNCs, which are the key factors in dom-
inating the mechanical behavior, especially the yield
strength, were not fully considered. In the meantime,
Ramakrishnan [15] proposed an analytical model for pre-
dicting the yield strength of the microsized particulate-rein-
forced metal matrix composite (MMCs), using a composite
sphere model for the intra-granular type of MMCs and
1359-6462/$ - see front matter 2006 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.scriptamat.2005.12.017
*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 416 979 5000x6487; fax: +1 416 979
5265.
E-mail address: dchen@ryerson.ca (D.L. Chen).
www.actamat-journals.com
Scripta Materialia 54 (2006) 13211326
incorporating two improvement parameters associated
with the dislocation strengthening of the matrix and the
load-bearing eect of the reinforcement. This model, repre-
senting an incorporation of both continuum and microme-
chanics approaches, has been used to predict the low-cycle
fatigue life of discontinuous reinforced MMCs [16,17].
However, Ramakrishnans model was applicable only for
MMCs containing microsized particles.
The objective of this investigation was to model and
predict the yield strength of the intra-granular type of
MMNCs, which represents one of the most important
aspects of the nanocomposite strengthening mechanisms
and eects. By considering the strengthening mechanisms
of MMNCs, and incorporating Ramakrishnans model
and the Orowan strengthening eect, an analytical model
for predicting the yield strength of particulate-reinforced
MMNCs has been proposed. The theoretical predictions
based on this model were found to be in good agreement
with the experimental data reported in the literature.
2. Model development
Due to the excellent mechanical properties, MMNCs
have attracted the interest of many researchers. A lot of
work has been done involving dierent synthesis methods,
structures, mechanical properties, and strengthening mech-
anisms of MMNCs. Since the strengthening mechanisms of
MMNCs are fundamental to the development of the pres-
ent model, they are rst summarized as follows.
2.1. Orowan strengthening mechanism
Orowan strengthening, caused by the resistance of
closely spaced hard particles to the passing of dislocations,
is important in aluminium alloys. It is widely acknowl-
edged, however, that Orowan strengthening is not signi-
cant in the microsized particulate-reinforced MMCs,
because the reinforcement particles are coarse and the
interparticle spacing is large. Furthermore, since the rein-
forcement is often found to lie on the grain boundaries of
the matrix, it is unclear whether the Orowan mechanism
can operate at all under these circumstances [18]. For melt
processed MMCs with the usually-used particles of 5 lm or
larger, Orowan strengthening has indeed been pointed out
to be not a major factor [14]. In contrast, due to the pres-
ence of highly-dispersed nanosized reinforcement particles
(smaller than 100 nm) in a metal matrix, Orowan
strengthening becomes more favourable in MMNCs. It
has been well established that the presence of a dispersion
of ne (100 nm) insoluble particles in a metal can consid-
erably raise the creep resistance, even for only a small
volume fraction (<1%), due to the fact that Orowan bowing
is necessary for dislocations to bypass the particles [18]. For
composites containing ne particles, strengthening is often
explained by the Orowan mechanism [7,1921]. Shao
et al. [7] explained the improved hardness in the nanocom-
posite Ni/Al
2
O
3
lms by using the Orowan dislocation
bowing mechanism. Thilly et al. [21] observed Orowan loop
mechanism and used it to simulate the good mechanical
properties of Cu/Nb nanocomposites. It is noted that ther-
mal stresses around the nanoparticles are large enough to
cause plastic deformation in the matrix and dislocation
loops around the vicinity of the nanoparticles [22,23]. In
addition, secondary processing, such as extrusion, is used
to synthesize MMNCs. It is clear that plastic deformation
has occurred during synthesis of MMNCs and Orowan
loops are expected to exert a back stress on dislocation
sources [24]. Therefore, it is necessary to take into consider-
ation the Orowan strengthening in the modeling of
MMNCs.
2.2. Enhanced dislocation density strengthening
mechanism
In MMNCs, the increased interfacial area between the
reinforcement and matrix contributes to the enhanced
mechanical properties due to the nanosized particles. Also
because of the thermal mismatch between the reinforce-
ment and the matrix, which are in the thermal equilibrium
only at the temperature at which they are brought into
contact during the process, on cooling from the processing
temperature thermal stresses around the nanoparticles
large enough to cause plastic deformation are generated
in the matrix, especially in the interface region [25]. These
stresses reduce quickly with increasing distance from the
boundary, which can generate small defects such as dislo-
cations in the close vicinity of nanosized particles [23].
The presence of a high dislocation density near the inter-
face between the matrix and reinforcement particles has
been experimentally observed [26,27].
2.3. Load-bearing eect of the reinforcement
strengthening mechanism
Due to the nanosize of the reinforcement particles and
the sound synthesizing methods, there is a strong cohesion
at the atomic level between the matrix and particles, i.e.,
the nanosized particles are directly bonded to the matrix
[2830].
In general, the yield strength of a composite material is
the stress required to operate dislocation sources and is
governed by the presence and magnitude of all the obsta-
cles that restrict the motion of dislocations in the matrix.
For MMCs, Ramakrishnan [15] proposed an analytical
model to predict the yield strength by incorporating a mod-
ied shear lag model (continuum mechanics approach) and
an enhanced dislocation density model (micromechanics
strengthening approach),
r
m
yc
r
ym
1 f
l
1 f
d
; 1
where r
m
yc
is the yield strength of the MMCs, r
ym
is the yield
strength of the monolithic matrix, f
l
is the improvement
factor associated with the load-bearing eect of the rein-
forcement, f
d
is the improvement factor related to the
1322 Z. Zhang, D.L. Chen / Scripta Materialia 54 (2006) 13211326
dislocation density in the matrix, caused by the thermal
mismatch between the matrix and the reinforcement
particles.
As stated above, for MMNCs Orowan strengthening
mechanism should be taken into consideration. When
several strengthening eects are simultaneously present,
one way would be to use the rules of addition of the
strengthening contributions, e.g., by Lilholt [31]. In this
investigation Ramakrishnans approach [15] is considered,
since it was shown that both additive and synergistic eects
could be taken into account. Thus, the yield strength of
particulate-reinforced MMNCs, r
yc
, may be expressed as,
r
yc
r
ym
1 f
l
1 f
d
1 f
Orowan
; 2
where f
Orowan
is the improvement factor associated with
Orowan strengthening of the nanoparticles. For particu-
late-reinforced composites the general expression for f
l
is
[15,16,32],
f
l
0:5V
p
; 3
where V
p
is the volume fraction of the reinforcement nano-
particles. f
d
has been expressed to be [33],
f
d
kG
m
b

q
p
=r
ym
; 4
where G
m
is the shear modulus of the matrix, b is the Bur-
gers vector of the matrix, k is a constant, approximately
equal to 1.25, q is the enhanced dislocation density which
is assumed to be entirely due to the residual plastic strain
developed due to the dierence in the coecients of
thermal expansion (DCTE) between the reinforcement
phase and the matrix during the post-fabrication cooling.
For equiaxed particulates the following expression was
reported [34],
q 12
DaDTV
p
bd
p
1 V
p

; 5
where d
p
is the particle size, Da is the dierence in the
coecients of the thermal expansion, DT is the dierence
between the processing and test temperatures.
The improvement factor f
Orowan
related to the Orowan
strengthening of nanoparticles introduced in Eq. (2) can
be expressed as,
f
Orowan
Dr
Orowan
=r
ym
; 6
where Dr
Orowan
has been described by the OrowanAshby
equation [24],
Dr
Orowan

0:13G
m
b
k
ln
r
b
; 7
where r is the particle radius, r = d
p
/2, and k is the interpar-
ticle spacing, expressed as [16,35],
k d
p
1
2V
p
_ _1
3
1
_ _
. 8
Substituting Eqs. (3)(8) into Eq. (2) and considering
DT = T
process
T
test
, Da = a
m
a
p
, one can derive the fol-
lowing equation for the yield strength of MMNCs,
r
yc
1 0:5V
p
r
ym
A B
AB
r
ym
_ _
; 9
A 1:25G
m
b

12T
process
T
test
a
m
a
p
V
p
bd
p
1 V
p

; 9a
B
0:13G
m
b
d
p
1
2V p
_ _1
3
1
_ _ ln
d
p
2b
. 9b
Fig. 1 presents the analytical results of the eect of the
volume fraction (V
p
) on the yield strength based on
Eq. (9) for dierent sizes of reinforcement nanoparticu-
lates (d
p
). The data for the nano-Al
2
O
3
particulate-
reinforced magnesium nanocomposites tested at room
temperature [8,36] are used: r
ym
= 97 MPa, E
m
= 42.8 GPa,
m = 0.3, G
m
= E
m
/[2(1 + m)] = 16.5 GPa, b = 0.32 nm,
a
m
= 28.4 10
6
(C)
1
, a
p
= 9.0 10
6
(C)
1
, T
process
=
300 C, T
test
= 20 C, and d
p
= 20, 30, 40, 50, 70 and
100 nm. Two trends can be seen fromFig. 1: (i) a higher vol-
ume fraction of nanoparticles leads to a higher yield
strength; (ii) the nanoparticle size has a strong eect on
the yield strength. A small volume fraction of nanoparticu-
lates of less than 0.06 can signicantly improve the yield
strength of MMNCs.
3. Verication of the model and discussion
The yield strength predicted via the present model, i.e.,
Eq. (9), in a nano-Al
2
O
3
particulate-reinforced magnesium
nanocomposite as a function of nanoparticle size can be
seen in Fig. 2. Clearly, the nanoparticle size has a signi-
cant eect on the yield strength when the volume fraction
is slightly higher, e.g., V
p
P0.01. Another important point
is that the improvement in the yield strength of the
MMNCs becomes very strong when the nanoparticle size
is smaller than about 100 nm. This is in agreement with
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
0 0.01 0.02 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.06
Volume fraction of nanoparticles
Y
i
e
l
d

s
t
r
e
n
g
t
h
,

M
P
a
dp=20 nm
dp=30 nm
dp=40 nm
dp=50 nm
dp=70 nm
dp=100 nm
Fig. 1. Yield strength as a function of volume fraction of nanoparticles for
dierent particle sizes in nano-Al
2
O
3
particulate-reinforced magnesium
nanocomposites tested at 20 C.
Z. Zhang, D.L. Chen / Scripta Materialia 54 (2006) 13211326 1323
the experimental results [8,36], and provides a theoretical
support to the terminology of nanotechnology, e.g.,
dened by the US National Science Foundation [37], where
. . . The novel and dierentiating properties and functions
are developed at a critical length scale of matter typically
under 100 nm. . . is specied. Most researchers [9,14] in
the area of nanocomposites have also done their research
by controlling the nanoparticle size below 100 nm. Thus,
100 nm is the critical size for nanoparticulate-reinforced
MMNCs to produce excellent mechanical properties, com-
pared to the counterpart of microparticulate-reinforced
MMCs.
Good agreement between the present model prediction,
based on Eq. (9), and the experimental data is observed
and shown in Fig. 3. It is seen that the present model can
be used to better predict the yield strength than Rama-
krishnans model [15], thus indicating that Orowan
strengthening eect should be taken into account in
MMNCs. Since the tensile bar contained rod shaped
Al
2
O
3
nanoparticles [8], the strengthening eect of such a
rod shape should be higher than the spherical one [24]. In
our model all nanoparticles were assumed to be spherical.
This is probably why our model slightly underestimates
the rst two experimental data. On the other hand, with
increasing volume fraction of the reinforcement particles,
the probability of forming the processing-induced voids
becomes higher, leading to a degradation of the yield
strength [38]. This would be the main reason why the third
experimental value was somewhat lower than our model
prediction, because in the present model no porosity was
considered within the nanocomposites.
To further verify our model, another comparison
between the present model prediction and the experimental
data reported in Ref. [39] is shown in Fig. 4, where the
eect of the particle shape related to Orowan strengthening
is also considered [24,39]. The following data for the Y
2
O
3
-
reinforced titanium nanocomposites tested at room tem-
perature are used: r
ym
= 330 MPa [39]; G
m
= 44.8 GPa,
b = 0.29 nm [40]; a
m
= 11.9 10
6
(C)
1
[41], a
p
=
9.3 10
6
(C)
1
[42], T
process
= 827 C for A
1
, B
1
, C
1
, D
1
and 900 C for A
2
, B
2
, C
2
, and d
p
= 2, 10, 9, 13, 40, 10
and 30 nm [39]. On the basis of the values of the weight
fraction given in Ref. [39], the following converted values
of volume fraction V
p
= 0.25, 0.38, 0.59, 0.59, 0.27, 0.41
and 0.54% are utilized.
Again, good agreement between the model prediction
for the minimum sized reinforcement particles and the
experimental data is seen in Fig. 4, where a combined eect
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
900
1000
0 50 100 150 200
Nanoparticle size, nm
Y
i
e
l
d

s
t
r
e
n
g
t
h
,

M
P
a
Vp=0.001
Vp=0.005
Vp=0.01
Vp=0.02
Vp=0.03
Vp=0.04
Vp=0.05
Fig. 2. Yield strength as a function of nanoparticle size for dierent
volume fractions in nano-Al
2
O
3
particulate-reinforced magnesium nano-
composites tested at 20 C.
50
100
150
200
250
0.001 0.006 0.011 0.016
Volume fraction of nanoparticles
Y
i
e
l
d

s
t
r
e
n
g
t
h
,

M
P
a

Present model, Eq. (9)
Experimental data [8]
Ramakrishnan's model [15]
Fig. 3. A comparison of the present model with Ramakrishnans model
[15] and with the experimental data for nano-Al
2
O
3
particulate-reinforced
magnesium nanocomposites tested at 20 C [8].
400
500
600
700
800
900
400 500 600 700 800 900
YS predicted by present model, MPa
E
x
p
e
r
i
m
e
n
t
a
l

Y
S
,

M
P
a

Fig. 4. A comparison of the prediction via the present model with the
experimental data for Y
2
O
3
particulate-reinforced titanium nanocompos-
ites tested at room temperature, where the error bar was based on the
range given in Ref. [39].
1324 Z. Zhang, D.L. Chen / Scripta Materialia 54 (2006) 13211326
of the variation in the volume fraction of nanoparticles,
thermomechanical treatment, and microstructure has been
taken into consideration.
The above comparison between the present model
prediction and the experimental data corroborates that it
is necessary to consider Orowan strengthening in MMNCs.
Fig. 5 shows an example of the comparison among the
three improvement factors (f
l
, f
d
, f
Orowan
) as a function of
the volume fraction of nanoparticles with a size of 50 nm
in nano-Al
2
O
3
particulate-reinforced Mg nanocomposites.
It is also seen that Orowan strengthening plays a signicant
role in MMNCs, while the load-bearing eect becomes very
small.
4. Conclusions
(1) A model for predicting the yield strength of intra-
granular type of metal matrix nanocomposites
(MMNCs) is proposed on the basis of the strengthen-
ing eects characterized by the modied shear lag
model, enhanced dislocation density model, and the
Orowan strengthening eect.
(2) It is shown that the yield strength of MMNCs is
governed by the size and volume fraction of nanopar-
ticles, the dierence in the coecients of thermal
expansion between the matrix and nanoparticles,
and the temperature change after processing.
(3) The present model indicates that 100 nm is a critical
size of nanoparticles to improve the yield strength
of MMNCs, below which the yield strength increases
remarkably with decreasing particle size.
(4) The proposed model shows excellent agreement with
the experimental data reported in the literature, indi-
cating that it is necessary to consider Orowan
strengthening in MMNCs.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank the nancial support
provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Re-
search Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Premiers Re-
search Excellence Award (PREA).
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I
m
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v
e
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f
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c
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Fig. 5. A comparison among the three improvement factors (f
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, f
Orowan
)
as a function of the volume fraction of nanoparticles in nano-Al
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