Impingement of edge dislocations on atomically rough contacts

R. J. Dikken, B. J. Thijsse, L. Nicola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The impingement of edge dislocations on nano-scale interfaces formed when bringing in contact aluminum crystals is investigated using molecular dynamics simulations. Dislocations, inserted in the bottom crystal, glide towards the contact when the two crystals are pressed together. There, dislocations are absorbed and upon further loading new dislocations are nucleated from the impinging site. Absorption and nucleation are events that affect the length of dislocation pile-ups and therefore the plastic behavior of crystals under contact loading. While it is possible to track absorption and nucleation at the nano-scale with molecular dynamics simulations, larger scale models, which are suitable to study plasticity, do not have the right resolution and neglect these events. The goal of this work is to gain a better understanding of dislocation impingement and to assess to which extent absorption and re-nucleation would play a role at the larger scale. The contacts are here characterized by their initial atomic scale roughness for which a simple, novel definition is introduced. Results show for the first time that roughness controls dislocation nucleation from the contact. This is true for both dislocation-free crystals and for crystals containing one or more dislocations before application of contact loading. In dislocation-free crystals nucleation occurs at decreasing load for increasing roughness. When a dislocation impinges on the contact, it affects its local roughness, by that decreasing the load necessary for dislocation nucleation. Only when the initial roughness of the contact is above a given threshold, dislocation impingement does not affect the load required for nucleation. If instead of a single dislocation, a train of dislocations impinges on the same site, dislocation nucleation is even more facilitated. However, even in this case the contact pressure required to nucleate dislocations is in the order of one GPa, rather high compared with the pressure required to sustain plastic deformation when macro-scale bodies are in contact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-319
JournalComputational Materials Science
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Atomic scale roughness
  • Contact
  • Dislocation pile-up
  • Molecular dynamics

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