Plastic Forming of Metals at the Nanoscale: Interdiffusion-Induced Bending of Bimetallic Nanowhiskers

Yuanshen Qi*, Gunther Richter, Eylül Suadiye, Michael Kalina, Eugen Rabkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Controlled plastic forming of nanoscale metallic objects by applying mechanical load is a challenge, since defect-free nanocrystals usually yield at near theoretical shear strength, followed by stochastic dislocation avalanches that lead to catastrophic failure or irregular, uncontrolled shapes. Herein, instead of mechanical load, we utilize chemical stress from imbalanced interdiffusion to manipulate the shape of nanowhiskers. Bimetallic Au-Fe nanowhiskers with an ultrahigh bending strength were synthesized employing the molecular beam epitaxy technique. The one-sided Fe coating on the defect-free, single-crystalline Au nanowhisker exhibited both single- and polycrystalline regions. Annealing the bimetallic nanowhiskers at elevated temperatures led to gradual change of curvature and irreversible bending. At low homological temperatures at which grain boundary diffusion is a dominant mode of mass transport this irreversible bending was attributed to the grain boundary Kirkendall effect during the diffusion of Au along the grain boundaries in the Fe layer. At higher temperatures and longer annealing times, the bending was dominated by intensive bulk diffusion of Fe into the Au nanowhisker, accompanied by a significant migration of the Au-Fe interphase boundary toward the Fe layers. The irreversible bending was caused by the concentration dependence of the lattice parameter of the Au(Fe) alloy and by the volume effect associated with the interphase boundary migration. The results of this study demonstrate a high potential of chemical interdiffusion in the controlled plastic forming of ultrastrong metal nanostructures. By design of the thickness, microstructure, and composition of the coating as well as the parameters of heat treatment, bimetallic nanowhiskers can be bent in a controlled manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11691-11699
Number of pages9
JournalACS Nano
Issue number9
StatePublished - 22 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Kirkendall effect
  • interdiffusion
  • metal nanowhiskers
  • nanoscale plasticity


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