We present in situ indentation in a transmission electron microscope on Al-TiN multilayers with individual layer thicknesses of 50 nm and 2.7 nm to explore the effect of length scales on the plastic co-deformability of a metal and a ceramic. At 50 nm, plasticity was confined to the Al layers with brittle fracture in the TiN layers. At 5 nm and below, cracking in TiN was suppressed with co-deformation evident in both layers. The in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) straining results demonstrate a profound size effect in enhancing plastic co-deformability in nanoscale metal-ceramic multilayers, as well as direct validation of ex situ and 3-D elastic–plastic deformation models.
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The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences. This work was performed, in part, at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, an Office of Science User Facility operated for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Los Alamos National Laboratory, an affirmative action equal opportunity employer, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, for the National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract DE-AC52-06NA25396.