A kinetic Monte Carlo study of coarsening resistance of novel core/shell precipitates

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A novel approach towards the design of coarsening-resistant nanoprecipitates in structural alloys was investigated by kinetic Monte Carlo (KMC) simulation. The approach is motivated by recent experimental results in Cu-Nb-W alloys showing that room temperature ion irradiation resulted in W nanoprecipitation, leading to exceptional stability of W-rich-core/Nb-rich-shell nanoprecipitates formed following thermal annealing (Zhang et al., 2013 [11]). Here, image simulations of atomically resolved scanning transmission electron microscopy are performed to establish that these W nanoprecipitates are highly ramified. Thermal precipitate coarsening in an A-B-C ternary alloy similar to Cu-Nb-W is then studied by KMC simulations, where the highly immiscible and refractory C solute atoms are initially distributed into fractal nanoprecipitates, or cores, which become coated by a shell of B atoms during elevated temperature annealing. Compared with nanoprecipitates generated by compact C cores, the ramified nanoprecipitates result in exceptionally high trapping efficiency of B solute atoms during thermal coarsening, and the efficiency increases with the cluster size. The KMC results are analyzed and rationalized by noting that, owing to the Gibbs-Thomson effect, when the curvatures of the shell of the precipitates are zero or negative, the microstructure is coarsening-resistant. Such morphology can be realized by facets, or by dynamic balance within positive, negative and zero curvatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalActa Materialia
StatePublished - Oct 15 2014


  • Copper alloys
  • Core/shell structure
  • Ion irradiation
  • Monte Carlo techniques
  • Precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials


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