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Grain nucleation and growth in deformed NiTi shape memory alloys: An in situ TEM study
The present study investigates the evolution of nanocrystalline (NC) and ultrafine-grained (UFG) microstructures in plastically deformed NiTi. Two deformed NiTi alloys were subjected to in situ annealing in a transmission electron microscope (TEM) at 400 and 550 °C: an amorphous material state produced by high-pressure torsion (HPT) and a mostly martensitic partly amorphous alloy produced by wire drawing. In situ annealing experiments were performed to characterize the microstructural evolution from the initial nonequilibrium states toward energetically more favorable microstructures. In general, the formation and evolution of nanocrystalline microstructures are governed by the nucleation of new grains and their subsequent growth. Austenite nuclei which form in HPT and wire-drawn microstructures have sizes close to 10 nm. Grain coarsening occurs in a sporadic, nonuniform manner and depends on the physical and chemical features of the local environment. The mobility of grain boundaries in NiTi is governed by the local interaction of each grain with its microstructural environment. Nanograin growth in thin TEM foils seems to follow similar kinetic laws to those in bulk microstructures. The present study demonstrates the strength of in situ TEM analysis and also highlights aspects which need to be considered when interpreting the results.