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Temperature dependent transition of intragranular plastic to intergranular brittle failure in electrodeposited Cu micro-tensile samples

A Wimmer, M Smolka, W Heinz, T Detzel, W Robl, C Motz, Volker Eyert, Erich Wimmer, F Jahnel, R Treichler, G Dehm
Materials Science & Engineering A 618 (2014) 398-405

Smaller grain sizes are known to improve the strength and ductility of metals by the Hall–Petch effect. Consequently, metallic thin films and structures which must sustain mechanical loads in service are deposited under processing conditions that lead to a fine grain size. In this study, we reveal that at temperatures as low as 473K the failure mode of 99.99at% pure electro-deposited Cu can change from ductile intragranular to brittle intergranular fracture. The embrittlement is accompanied by a decrease in strength and elongation to fracture. Chemical analyses indicate that the embrittlement is caused by impurities detected at grain boundaries. In situ micromechanical experiments in the scanning electron microscope and atomistic simulations are performed to study the underlying mechanisms.