High entropy alloys: A focused review of mechanical properties and deformation mechanisms

George, E.P. and Curtin, W.A. and Tasan, C.C.

Volume: 188 Pages: 435-474
DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2019.12.015
Published: 2020

The high-entropy alloy (HEA) concept was based on the idea that high mixing entropy can promote formation of stable single-phase microstructures. During the past 15 years, various alloy systems have been explored to identify HEA systems with improved property combinations, leading to an extraordinary growth of this field. In the large pool of alloys with varying characteristics, the first single-phase HEA with good tensile properties, the equiatomic CrMnFeCoNi alloy has become the benchmark material, and it forms the basis of much of our current fundamental understanding of HEA mechanical behavior. As the field is evolving to the more broadly defined complex concentrated alloys (CCAs) and the available data in the literature increase exponentially, a fundamental question remains unchanged: how special are these new materials? In the first part of this review, select mechanical properties of HEAs and CCAs are compared with those of conventional engineering alloys. This task is difficult because of the limited tensile data available for HEAs and CCAs. Additionally, the wider suite of mechanical properties needed to assess structural materials is woefully lacking. Nonetheless, our evaluations have not revealed many HEAs or CCAs with properties far exceeding those of conventional engineering alloys, although specific alloys can show notable enhancements in specific properties. Consequently, it is reasonable to first approach the understanding of HEAs and CCAs through the assessment of how the well-established deformation mechanisms in conventional alloys operate or are modified in the presence of the high local complexity of the HEAs and CCAs. The second part of the paper provides a detailed review of the deformation mechanisms of HEAs with the FCC and BCC structures. For the former, we chose the CrMnFeCoNi (Cantor) alloy because it is the alloy on which the most rigorous and thorough investigations have been performed and, for the latter, we chose the TiZrHfNbTa (Senkov) alloy because this is one of the few refractory HEAs that exhibits any tensile ductility at room temperature. As expected, our review shows that the fundamental deformation mechanisms in these systems, and their dependence on basic physical properties, are broadly similar to those of conventional FCC and BCC metals. The third part of this review examines the theoretical and modeling efforts to date that seek to provide either qualitative or quantitative understanding of the mechanical performance of FCC and BCC HEAs. Since experiments reveal no fundamentally new mechanisms of deformation, this section starts with an overview of modeling perspectives and fundamental considerations. The review then turns to the evolution of modeling and predictions as compared to recent experiments, highlighting both successes and limitations. Finally, in spite of some significant successes, important directions for further theory development are discussed. Overall, while the individual deformation mechanisms or properties of the HEAs and CCAs are not, by and large, “special” relative to conventional alloys, the present HEA rush remains valuable because the compositional freedom that comes from the multi-element space will allow exploration of whether multiple mechanisms can operate sequentially or simultaneously, which may yet lead to the creation of new alloys with a spectrum of mechanical properties that are significantly superior to those of current engineering alloys. © 2019 Acta Materialia Inc.

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