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3 The plastic behaviour of crystalline solids

1.3.1 Crystal structure and slip
The three types of crystal lattice most commonly encountered in metals are
illustrated in Fig. 1.1. These are body-centred cubic, face-centred cubic and closepacked
hexagonal. Ferritic steel has a body-centred cubic structure, while the
face-centred cube is found in austenitic steel and the non-ferrous metals
aluminium, copper and nickel. The diagrams show the arrangement of ions in a
unit cell; extending this arrangement in three dimensions would produce the
relevant crystal lattice structure.
Plastic flow in a crystalline solid occurs as the result of slip. Blocks of the solid
above and below the crystallographic plane move laterally relative to each other
when a shear force is applied. Figure 1.2 illustrates such movement in the case
of a specimen consisting of a single crystal. The motion takes place across a
preferred crystallographic plane, which as a rule is a plane in which the
density of ions is greatest. In each type of crystal lattice there are a number of
such planes, and in a specimen loaded in tension the slip will take place across
the plane where the resolved shear stress is greatest. For a testpiece loaded in
uniaxial tension, as illustrated in Fig. 1.2, the component of force acting
tangentially across the slip plane is Fsine/), while the area of the plane is
A/ cos (/>, where A is the cross-sectional area. Putting F/A = a, the longitudinal
(a) (b) (C)
7.7 Elementary unit cell of (a) body-centred cubic, (b) face-centred cubic
and (c) close-packed hexagonal structures.
stress, the shear stress across the slip plane is T = o sin (j)cos(j) = ^crsin 2<j).
The shear stress is greatest, therefore, across planes lying at an angle of 45 to
the longitudinal axis. There is also a preferred direction for slip, and this is also
determined by the lattice structure.
Metals used in engineering structures are polycrystalline, and the individual
crystals are very small and randomly oriented. In a sample of such metals there
is no preferred slip plane, and no preferred slip direction; when subject to tensile
loading of sufficient magnitude there will be slip along crystallographic planes
in individual grains, but the overall result will be elongation in the tensile
direction accompanied by a reduction in cross-sectional area: in other words,
there is a generalized flow whose direction is not constrained by crystal
geometry. Such flow has some features in common with that of a very viscous
The continuum plastic flow in a cylindrical tensile testpiece may be regarded as
the result of slip across internal conical surfaces/The shear stress across such a
conical region is the same as that across an inclined plane, namely \ o sin 2</>
where in the case of the cone </> is the half-angle at the conical tip. The most
active slip will therefore take place at an angle of 45 to the axis. The supposed
cones point both upwards and downwards so that cross slip occurs. The net
result is a combination of axial elongation with radially inward flow.
Metals flow in a plastic manner when the applied stress exceeds a limiting
value peculiar to the metal or alloy in question. For example, in the uniaxial
tensile test, this stress is defined as that where the stress-strain curve departs
significantly from a straight line. As the amount of plastic strain increases, so
does the stress, until eventually rupture occurs. It has been stated above that
plasticity results from shear across certain crystallographic planes. It remains to
1.2 Slip In a crystalline solid having a uniform lattice orientation.
Slip plane
Slip direction
be explained how, if such an apparent discontinuity as a slip plane exists, it is
nevertheless possible for the metal to retain its coherence. Such an explanation is
one of the major achievements of the theory of dislocations.
1.3.2 Dislocations

It is very exceptional for the crystal lattice of any solid, be it metallic or nonmetallic,
to achieve geometric perfection. Most real substances contain
impurities, which may be present as atoms or ions in solution, or as chemical
compounds in the form of inclusions. A site in the lattice normally occupied by
an ion may be empty: this is a point defect known as a vacancy. All such defects
result in local lattice strains. Much more significant, however, is the presence of
dislocations. These occur where planes of ions are partly missing. Figure 1.3,
for example, is a diagram in which the lattice planes are represented as lines.
One half-plane is absent, and the remainder are correspondingly distorted.
Dislocations may take various geometric forms, and may in practice be complex
and may also be distorted. The manner in which they behave when exposed to a
shear stress in the plastic range may, however, be quite adequately illustrated by
reference to a simple edge dislocation, as shown in Fig. 1.4. Lines of ions along
the slip plane relocate progressively and stepwise from the right-hand side of the
dislocation to the left, so that the solid below the slip line moves in the direction
of the shear while the dislocation moves in the opposite direction. In this way the
two blocks of metal move relatively to each other without losing cohesion. This,
as noted earlier, is an essential requirement for plastic flow in a crystalline solid
if it is to retain both its integrity and its crystalline form.
Slip plane
1.3 Edge dislocation.
1.4 The mechanism of dislocation movement. The solid below the slip
plane moves from right to left while the dislocation moves in the
opposite direction.
1.3.3 Dislocation velocity and the strain rate
It will be evident from Fig. 1.4 that dislocations must possess one property that
will influence the rate of plastic flow, namely, the dislocation velocity. In certain
substances the presence of dislocations may be disclosed by attacking the
polished surfaces of a sample with an etching agent. Exposing samples of such
materials to a stress pulse of known intensity and duration, followed by
treatment with a suitable etch, makes it possible to plot dislocation velocity as a
function of shear stress. Figure 1.5 shows such a plot for 3^% silicon iron at
various temperatures. It will be evident that the dislocation velocity varies very
rapidly with applied stress:
where VD is dislocation velocity, T is applied shear stress and A: is a constant.
where VDy is the dislocation velocity at the yield stress.
Now the axial strain rate ds/dt must be related to the dislocation velocity.
Suppose that the volume density of mobile dislocations is pD and the mean area
displacement associated with each emergent dislocation is SA resolved in the
axial direction, then
Thus, for any single batch of a particular metal, where pD and SA are constant,
and from equation 1.10
since shear stress is proportional to axial stress.
This relationship may be interpreted as follows. Suppose that a series of tensile
testpieces are prepared from a single batch of material, and suppose that they are
tested at successively higher strain rates. Then an individual specimen would be
expected to behave elastically up to the stress at which the dislocation velocity is
high enough to match the relevant strain rate. Such tests have been carried out on
a high-tensile structural steel and the results are shown in Fig. 1.6(a). In Fig.
1.6(b) the same data are presented in log-log form with strain rates as ordinates in
order to allow comparison with Fig. 1.5. The two curves are in fact very similar in
Dislocation velocity (cm s~1)

Applied stress (MN rrr2)

1.5 Dislocation velocity as a function of applied shear stress at various
temperatures for 3^% silicon iron (Hull, 1997).
character, and their slopes (the exponent n in equations 1.10 and 1.13) are 35 and
37 respectively. It would seem that the proposed relationship between strain rate
and dislocation velocity is probably correct.
Other tests have shown that there is an upper limit to the dislocation velocity
which is equal to the propagation rate of transverse oscillations in the medium
concerned. For steel this is about 3000 m s"1. Taking the dislocation velocity at
yield as 3 x 10~10 m s"1, the limiting strain rate may be estimated to be of the
order 109.
The need (other than in a few exceptional cases) for plastic deformation during
welding operations has already been emphasized. However, there is one welding
process that is of particular interest in connection with plastic flow; namely
explosive welding. The way in which one variant of this process works is
illustrated in Fig. 1.7. This diagram shows the welding of a cladding plate on to
a backing plate. The two plates are set at a specified distance apart, and the
explosive is placed so as to cover the cladding plate. It is then detonated from
one end. The upper plate deforms in the manner shown, colliding progressively
with the lower plate and welding to it. The interface has a characteristically
wavy profile, as indicated in the diagram.