We report transmission electron microscope observations that provide evidence of deformation twinning in plastically deformed nanocrystalline aluminum. The presence of these twins is directly related to the nanocrystalline structure, because they are not observed in coarse-grained pure aluminum. We propose a dislocation-based model to explain the preference for deformation twins and stacking faults in nanocrystalline materials. These results underscore a transition from deformation mechanisms controlled by normal slip to those controlled by partial dislocation activity when grain size decreases to tens of nanometers, and they have implications for interpreting the unusual mechanical behavior of nanocrystalline materials.
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