The material-physical mechanisms of deformation, fatigue, and fracture have now been known for decades, but are not understood quantitatively. We pursue the goal of specifically observing the behavior of individual defects (crystals, grain boundaries, pores, or cracks) under external load and thereby obtaining a quantitative, mechanistic understanding of material degradation.
The quantitative elucidation of damage and degradation mechanisms in structural and functional materials is the focus of the Working Group Atomic Force Microscopy and Nanomechanical Methods. These mechanisms often cannot be studied quantitatively in macroscopic components because the behavior of individual crystal defects is overlaid and smeared by the complex interaction of all defects in the polycrystalline material. For this reason, we pursue the approach of geometrically restricting the sample volume so that only a few defects are present in the test specimen. We then study their behavior under external load using atomic force microscopy, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and synchrotron-based techniques to build a quantitative mechanistic understanding of deformation, fatigue, and fracture at the microstructure level.
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