It is now possible to synthesize polycrystalline metals made up of grains that average less than 100 nm in size. Such nanocrystalline metals contain a significant volume fraction of interfacial regions separated by nearly perfect crystals. The small sizes involved limit the conventional operation of dislocation sources and thus a fundamental question arises: how do these materials deform plastically? We review the current views on deformation mechanisms in nanocrystalline, face-centered cubic metals based on insights gained by atomistic computer simulations. These insights are discussed with reference to recent striking experimental observations that can be compared with predictions made by the simulations.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(06)71494-8