Grain boundary network engineering is an emerging field that encompasses the concept that modifications to conventional thermomechanical processing can result in improved properties through the disruption of the random grain boundary network. Various researchers have reported a correlation between the grain boundary character distribution (defined as the fractions of “special” and “random” grain boundaries) and dramatic improvements in properties such as corrosion and stress corrosion cracking, creep, etc. While much early work in the field emphasized property improvements, the opportunity now exists to elucidate the underlying materials science of grain boundary network engineering. Recent investigations at LLNL have coupled automated electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) with transmission electron microscopy (TEM)5 and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to elucidate these fundamental mechanisms.
An example of the coupling of TEM and EBSD is given in Figures 1-3. The EBSD image in Figure 1 reveals “segmentation” of boundaries from special to random and random to special and low angle grain boundaries in some grains, but not others, resulting from the 15% compression of an Inconel 600 polycrystal.