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We investigated the influence of annealing on the nanometer-scale medium-range order in Zr54Cu38Al8 bulk metallic glass using fluctuation electron microscopy. Fluctuation microscopy experiments probing structure at a length scale of 1 nm show that the as-cast Zr bulk metallic glass contains significant medium range order. That structure is unchanged by annealing at 87% of the glass transition temperature for 24 hours, although that anneal does significantly change the differential scanning calorimetry trace.
We report variable resolution fluctuation electron microscopy (VRFEM) measurements on Cu64.5Zr35.5 metallic glass acquired using scanning transmission electron microscopy nanodiffraction using coherent probes 0.8 to 11 nm in diameter. The VRFEM results show that medium range atomic order structure of Cu64.5Zr35.5 bulk metallic glass at the ∼1 nm scale has large fluctuations, but the structure becomes almost completely homogeneous at the 11 nm scale. We show that our experimental VRFEM data are consistent with two different models, the pair persistent model and the amorphous/nanocrystal composite model. We also report a new way to filter VRFEM data to eliminate the effect of specimen thickness gradient using high-angle annular dark field images as references.
We used reverse Monte Carlo (RMC) modeling to simulate the atomic structure of a Zr-based bulk metallic glass (BMG), incorporating short-range structural data from the electron diffraction total reduced density function G(r) and medium-range structural data from fluctuation electron microscopy (FEM). Including the FEM data created within the model loosely ordered planar atomic arrangements covering regions ∼1 nm in diameter without degrading the agreement with G(r). RMC refinement against only G(r) produced no agreement with FEM. Improved simulations are needed to create fully realistic BMG structures, but these results show that including FEM in RMC further constrains the structure compared with G(r) data alone and that the FEM signal in real materials is likely to arise from pseudo-planar arrangements of atoms.
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