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Molecular dynamics simulations were performed to gain fundamental insight into crystal plasticity, and its size effects in nanowires deformed by spherical indentation. This work focused on-oriented single-crystal, defect-free Ni nanowires of cylindrical shape with diameters of 12 and 30 nm. The indentation of thin films was also comparatively studied to characterize the influence of free surfaces in the emission and absorption of lattice dislocations in single-crystal Ni. All of the simulations were conducted at 300 K by using a virtual spherical indenter of 18 nm in diameter with a displacement rate of1 ms1. No significant effect of sample size was observed on the elastic response and mean contact pressure at yield point in both thin films and nanowires. In the plastic regime, a constant hardness of 21 GPa was found in thin films for penetration depths larger than 0.8 nm, irrespective of variations in film thickness. The major finding of this work is that the hardness of the nanowires decreases as the sample diameter decreases, causing important softening effects in the smaller nanowire during indentation. The interactions of prismatic loops and dislocations, which are emitted beneath the contact tip, with free boundaries are shown to be the main factor for the size dependence of hardness in single-crystal Ni nanowires during indentation.

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Journal of Materials Research