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Unraveling submicron-scale mechanical heterogeneity by three-dimensional X-ray microdiffraction

Shear banding is a ubiquitous phenomenon of severe plastic deformation, and damage accumulation in shear bands often results in the catastrophic failure of a material. Despite extensive studies, the microscopic mechanisms of strain localization and deformation damage in shear bands remain elusive due to their spatial−temporal complexities embedded in bulk materials. Here we conducted synchrotron-based X-ray microdiffraction (μXRD) experiments to map out the 3D lattice strain field with a submicron resolution around fatigue shear bands in a stainless steel. Both in situ and postmortem μXRD results revealed large lattice strain gradients at intersections of the primary and secondary shear bands. Such strain gradients resulted in severe mechanical heterogeneities across the fatigue shear bands, leading to reduced fatigue limits in the high-cycle regime. The ability to spatially quantify the localized strain gradients with submicron resolution through μXRD opens opportunities for understanding the microscopic mechanisms of damage and failure in bulk materials.