Complexion: A new concept for kinetic engineering in materials science

Shen J. Dillon, Ming Tang, W. Craig Carter, Martin P. Harmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interfaces and the movement of atoms within an interface play a crucial role in determining the processing and properties of virtually all materials. However, the nature of interfaces in solids is highly complex and it has been an ongoing challenge to link material performance with the internal interface structure and related atomic transport mechanisms. Interface complexions offer a missing link to help solve this universal problem. We have theoretically predicted the existence of multiple interface complexions by thermodynamics, but the present work represents the most comprehensive characterization and proof of their existence in a real material system. An interface complexion can be considered as a separate phase, which can be made to transform into different complexions (phases) with vastly different properties by chemistry and heat treatment, thereby enabling the engineering control of material properties on a level not previously realizable. As such, complexions offer a solution to outstanding fundamental scientific mysteries, such as the origin of abnormal grain growth in inorganic materials, a problem which leading researchers in the field have struggled to explain for the past 50 years. It is also described how interface complexions will likely have widespread impact across all branches of material science and related disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6208-6218
Number of pages11
JournalActa Materialia
Issue number18
StatePublished - Oct 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Abnormal grain growth
  • Grain boundaries
  • Grain boundary segregation
  • Interfaces
  • Wetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Metals and Alloys

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