Atomistic Representation of Anomalies in the Failure Behaviour of Nanocrystalline Silicene

Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 7;7(1):14629. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-15146-6.


Silicene, a 2D analogue of graphene, has spurred a tremendous research interest in the scientific community for its unique properties essential for next-generation electronic devices. In this work, for the first time, we present a molecular dynamics (MD) investigation to determine the fracture strength and toughness of nanocrystalline silicene (nc-silicene) sheet of varying grain sizes and pre-existing cracks at room temperature. Our results suggest a transition from an inverse pseudo Hall-Petch to a pseudo Hall-Petch behaviour in nc-silicene at a critical grain size of 17.32 nm. This phenomenon is also prevalent in nanocrystalline graphene. However, nc-silicene with pre-existing cracks exhibits anomalous crack propagation and fracture toughness behaviour. We observed two distinct types of failure mechanisms (crack sensitive and insensitive failure) and devised mechano-physical conditions under which they occur. The most striking outcome is: despite the presence of a pre-existing crack, the crack sensitivity of nc-silicene is found to be dependent on the grain size and their orientations. The calculated Fracture toughness from both Griffith's theory and MD simulations indicate that the former over-predicts the fracture toughness of nc-silicene. Finally, this study is the first direct comparison of atomistic simulations to the continuum theories to predict the anomalous behaviour in deformation and failure mechanisms of nc-silicene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't