Interfaces have been reported to significantly strengthen and toughen metallic materials. However, there has been a long-standing question on whether interface-affected-zone (IAZ) exists, and how it might behave. Here we report in situ high-resolution strain mapping near interfaces in a copper–bronze heterogeneous laminate, which revealed the existence of IAZs. Defined as the zone with strain gradient, the IAZ was found to form by the dislocations emitted from the interface. The IAZ width remained largely constant with a magnitude of a few micrometers with increasing applied strain. Interfaces produced both back stress strengthening and work hardening, which led to both higher strength and higher ductility with decreasing interface spacing until adjacent IAZs started to overlap, after which a tradeoff between strength and ductility occurred, indicating the existence of an optimum interface spacing for the best mechanical properties. These findings are expected to help with designing laminates and other heterogeneous metals and alloys for superior mechanical properties.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2018.03.006