Nanomechanical behaviour of individual phases in WC-Co cemented carbides, from ambient to high temperature

De Luca, F. and Zhang, H. and Mingard, K. and Stewart, M. and Jablon, B. M. and Trager-Cowan, C. and Gee, M. G. (2020) Nanomechanical behaviour of individual phases in WC-Co cemented carbides, from ambient to high temperature. Materialia, 12. 100713. ISSN 2589-1529 (

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The dependence of the mechanical behaviour of individual phases in WC-Co on microstructural parameters such as grain size and orientation were investigated by means of nanoindentation and electron microscopy. A broad range of WC grain dimensions, from about 1 to 1000 µm2, were selected and subsequently indented to investigate any size effect. A decrease in hardness as a function of grain dimensions was observed, due to an increase in dislocation mobility in larger grains. Whilst the binder phase only exhibits a hardness of about 11 GPa, the hardness of WC grains was measured about 29 and 53 GPa for the prismatic and basal orientations, respectively, in ambient conditions. All WC orientations exhibited a similar decrease in hardness with temperature, up to 700 ˚C. Damage mechanisms occurring in WC-Co during nanoindentation were investigated for the different grain orientations at various temperatures. The damage was visualised using electron microscopy near the residual indent coupled with Focused Ion Beam (FIB) sectioning across the indent. The three-dimensional distribution of plastic deformation across multiple grains in the vicinity of an indent was examined using Electron Channelling Contrast Imaging (ECCI). ECCI micrographs enabled the observation of crystal defects, especially dislocations, and slip lines as well as the entire plastic zone. The defect density and spatial distribution in the deformed WC grains were compared to that of an untested WC grain to identify the type of deformation originating from spherical indentation. The work provides important information on the relationship between WC-Co microstructure and performance at operating temperatures.