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Title: The analysis of local structural effects in alloys using total scattering and reverse Monte Carlo techniques
Author: Owen, Lewis Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 2451
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Over the years `short-range order' (SRO), whereby the local atomic arrangement differs from that of a random distribution, has been used to explain physical phenomena such as thermodynamic discontinuities, increased strength, anomalous electrical resistivity and magnetic variations in a host of alloys. However, due mainly to experimental difficulties and the complexity of the calculations required for the analysis of diffuse scattering, such work has been largely abandoned and hence quantification and assessment of SRO is notably sparse in the literature. The recent development of reverse Monte-Carlo (RMC) methods for the analysis of total scattering data has opened a promising route for the assessment of a material's local environment and has already provided important insights into a host of complex chemical systems, including liquids, network glasses, nano-materials, functional oxides and metal organic frameworks. The work presented in this thesis focuses on the development of a new methodology for the analysis of local structural effects in metallic systems using total scattering, and the first systematic application to the study of alloys. The simulation of total scattering data from a range of model structures is used to show that the information content of total scattering functions, in particular the pair distribution function (PDF), is sufficiently high to allow the assessment of different types and degrees of short-range order. This is supported by a demonstration of how such orders can be quantified from large box models, produced by fitting total scattering data using the RMC algorithm, with the mathematical analyses outlined. This culminates in a proposed methodology for the analysis of SRO in alloys. Having developed this analytical methodology it is subsequently applied to a number of interesting alloy systems. To demonstrate the efficacy of this methodology it was first applied to the study of a sample of Cu$_{3}$Au - the classically cited case example of a system demonstrating SRO prior to an ordering transition. This experiment provides new insight into this well characterised transition, and also demonstrates the significance of data processing errors on the generation of artefacts in large box modelling. The technique is also applied to the study of the industrially important family of nickel superalloys, assessing ordering in the gamma-phase alloy Ni-Cr and the sublattice orderings occurring in L1$_{2}$ alloys. Next, the use of the technique for the analysis of local strains exhibited in a lattice is presented. A series of models is used to demonstrate how the PDF is expected to change under variations in local strain caused by increased concentration of atomic substitution and variation in atomic radii. This is subsequently used to study the characteristic high-entropy alloy (HEA) CrMnFeCoNi. Through analysis of the PDF, it is demonstrated that the level of local strain exhibited in this alloy is not significantly different from those of other related compositionally simpler alloys. This result is highly significant as it challenges one of the core principles of the field - that the lattices of HEAs are necessarily highly strained. Finally, the energetics of ordering reactions are briefly considered and used to justify some of the observed transformations presented in the earlier work. Together, the body of work in this thesis shows how the total scattering technique can be used to provide valuable insight into a host of interesting local phenomena occurring in alloy systems. It is hoped that this will open up a new field of study into these effects, and ultimately guide the creation of new alloys based on these structure-property relationships.
Supervisor: Stone, Howard J. ; Playford, Helen Y. ; Tucker, Matthew G. Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Short range order ; Alloys ; Pair Distribution Function ; Total Scattering ; Reverse Monte Carlo