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Dislocations and lattice strain fields

Jan 05, 2017

In materials science parlance, dislocations are defined as line defects in a material's crystal structure. The bonds surrounding the dislocation are already elastically strained by the defect compared to the bonds between the constituents of the regular crystal lattice. Therefore, these bonds break at relatively lower stresses, leading to plastic deformation.

The strained bonds around a dislocation are characterized by lattice strain fields. For example, there are compressively strained bonds directly next to an edge dislocation and tensilely strained bonds beyond the end of an edge dislocation. These form compressive strain fields and tensile strain fields, respectively. Strain fields are analogous to electric fields in certain ways. Specifically, the strain fields of dislocations obey similar laws of attraction and repulsion; in order to reduce overall strain, compressive strains are attracted to tensile strains, and vice versa.

The visible (macroscopic) results of plastic deformation are the result of microscopic dislocation motion. For example, the stretching of a steel rod in a tensile tester is accommodated through dislocation motion on the atomic scale.