A strengthening mechanism merely arising from internal (residual) microstresses due to thermal expansion mismatch is proposed for explaining the high experimental strength data measured in Al2O3/SiC nanocomposites. Upon cooling, transgranular SiC particles undergo lower shrinkage as compared to the surrounding matrix and provide a hydrostatic "expansion" effect in the core of each Al2O3 grain. Such a grain expansion tightens the internal Al2O3 grain boundaries, thus shielding both weakly bonded and unbonded (cracked) grain boundaries. It is shown that the shielding effect by intragranular SiC particles is more pronounced than the grain-boundary opening effect eventually associated with thermal expansion anisotropy of the Al2O3 grains, even in the "worst" Al2O3-grain cluster configuration. Therefore, an improvement of the material strength can be found. However, a large stress intensification at the grain boundary is found when intergranular SiC particles are present, which can produce a noticeable wedge-like opening effect and trigger grain-boundary fracture. The present model enables us to explain the experimental strength data reported for Al2O3/SiC nanocomposites and confirms that the high strength of these materials can be explained without invoking any toughening contribution by the SiC dispersion. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
- Eshelby technique