Nature, Vol.592, No.7856, 712-+, 2021
Direct observation of chemical short-range order in a medium-entropy alloy
Direct experimental evidence of chemical short-range atomic-scale ordering (CSRO) in a VCoNi medium-entropy alloy is provided via diffraction and electron microscopy, analysed from specific crystallographic directions. Complex concentrated solutions of multiple principal elements are being widely investigated as high- or medium-entropy alloys (HEAs or MEAs)(1-11), often assuming that these materials have the high configurational entropy of an ideal solution. However, enthalpic interactions among constituent elements are also expected at normal temperatures, resulting in various degrees of local chemical order(12-22). Of the local chemical orders that can develop, chemical short-range order (CSRO) is arguably the most difficult to decipher and firm evidence of CSRO in these materials has been missing thus far(16,22). Here we discover that, using an appropriate zone axis, micro/nanobeam diffraction, together with atomic-resolution imaging and chemical mapping via transmission electron microscopy, can explicitly reveal CSRO in a face-centred-cubic VCoNi concentrated solution. Our complementary suite of tools provides concrete information about the degree/extent of CSRO, atomic packing configuration and preferential occupancy of neighbouring lattice planes/sites by chemical species. Modelling of the CSRO order parameters and pair correlations over the nearest atomic shells indicates that the CSRO originates from the nearest-neighbour preference towards unlike (V-Co and V-Ni) pairs and avoidance of V-V pairs. Our findings offer a way of identifying CSRO in concentrated solution alloys. We also use atomic strain mapping to demonstrate the dislocation interactions enhanced by the CSROs, clarifying the effects of these CSROs on plasticity mechanisms and mechanical properties upon deformation.