In situ neutron diffraction unravels deformation mechanisms of a strong and ductile FeCrNi medium entropy alloy

Lei Tang, F. Q. Jiang, J. S. Wróbel, B. Liu, S. Kabra, R. X. Duan, J. H. Luan, Z. B. Jiao, Moataz Attallah, D. Nguyen-Manh, Biao Cai

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We investigated the mechanical and microstructural responses of a high-strength equal-molar medium entropy FeCrNi alloy at 293 and 15 K by in situ neutron diffraction testing. At 293 K, the alloy had a very high yield strength of 651 ± 12 MPa, with a total elongation of 48%± 5%. At 15 K, the yield strength increased to 1092 ± 22 MPa, but the total elongation dropped to 18% ± 1%. Via analyzing the neutron diffraction data, we determined the lattice strain evolution, single-crystal elastic constants, stacking fault probability, and estimated stacking fault energy of the alloy at both temperatures, which are the critical parameters to feed into and compare against our first-principles calculations and dislocation-based slip system modeling. The density functional theory calculations show that the alloy tends to form short-range order at room temperatures. However, atom probe tomography and atomic-resolution transmission electron microscopy did not clearly identify the short-range order. Additionally, at 293 K, experimental measured single-crystal elastic constants did not agree with those determined by first-principles calculations with short-range order but agreed well with the values from the calculation with the disordered configuration at 2000 K. This suggests that the alloy is at a metastable state resulted from the fabrication methods. In view of the high yield strength of the alloy, we calculated the strengthening contribution to the yield strength from grain boundaries, dislocations, and lattice distortion. The lattice distortion contribution was based on the Varenne-Luque-Curtine strengthening theory for multi-component alloys, which was found to be 316 MPa at 293 K and increased to 629 MPa at 15 K, making a significant contribution to the high yield strength. Regarding plastic deformation, dislocation movement and multiplication were found to be the dominant hardening mechanism at both temperatures, whereas twinning and phase transformation were not prevalent. This is mainly due to the high stacking fault energy of the alloy as estimated to be 63 mJ m−2 at 293 K and 47 mJ m−2 at 15 K. This work highlights the significance of lattice distortion and dislocations played in this alloy, providing insights into the design of new multi-component alloys with superb mechanical performance for cryogenic applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-120
JournalJournal of Materials Science & Technology
Early online date19 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jan 2022


  • Cryogenic temperature
  • Medium entropy alloy
  • Multi-component alloy
  • Neutron diffraction


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