This paper presents a large-scale atomic resolution simulation of nanoindentation into a thin aluminum film using the recently introduced quasicontinuum method. The purpose of the simulation is to study the initial stages of plastic deformation under the action of an indenter. Two different crystallographic orientations of the film and two different indenter geometries (a rectangular prism and a cylinder) are studied. We obtain both macroscopic load versus indentation depth curves, as well as microscopic quantities, such as the Peierls stress and density of geometrically necessary dislocations beneath the indenter. In addition, we obtain detailed information regarding the atomistic mechanisms responsible for the macroscopic curves. A strong dependence on geometry and orientation is observed. Two different microscopic mechanisms are observed to accommodate the applied loading: (i) nucleation and subsequent propagation into the bulk of edge dislocation dipoles and (ii) deformation twinning.
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We are grateful to Bernard Budianski, Gilles Canova, Marc Fivel, Bill Gerberich, Ladislas Kubin, Erica Lilleodden, David Rodney, and Vijay Shenoy for many stimulating discussions. In addition, we gratefully acknowledge support by the AFOSR through Grant F49620-95-I-0264, the NSF through Grants CMS-9414648 and DMR-9632524, and the MRSEC program at Brown University.