Temperature effect on the material removal mechanism of soft-brittle crystals at nano/micron scale

Qi Liu, Zhirong Liao, Dragos Axinte

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Soft-brittle crystals, e.g. KH2PO4 (KDP), are difficult-to-cut due to their high brittleness which can easily generate crack during the machining process. The conventional method to machine this kind of material is by inducing ductile cutting mechanism at room temperature with ultra-precision machining, which can only remove materials at nanoscale level and hence yields very low material removal rate. While some thermal-assisted processes have been recently attempted to improve the machinability of some difficult-to-cut materials, e.g. ceramics, there is no systematic understanding of the temperature effect on material removal mechanism of soft-brittle KDP crystals yet. In this work, the temperature effect on the material removal mechanism has been investigated for the first time using nano-scratch technique. While a decreased hardness and elastic modulus have been observed with the increase of temperature, an increase of fracture toughness has been revealed with a contradictory tendency, indicating a higher capacity of plastic deformation at elevated temperature. In contrast to the almost totally brittle scratch at room temperature (RT) caused by crack propagation and edge chipping, the scratch at 170 °C can achieve more ductile-regime surfaces with a larger critical undeformed cutting depth (3.61 μm), e.g. a significant increase of 8.60 times compared with that at RT (0.42 μm). Moreover, the TEM analysis on the subsurface microstructures shows that a great number of nano grits was generated in the subsurface at RT as the result of crack propagation and interaction, while at elevated temperature some crystallographic lattice misaligned structures (LMS) and nano crystals have been brought about due to the nucleation and evolution of thermal-activated dislocations, which explains the higher plasticity of KDP at elevated temperature. The results present in this paper are of great significance for understanding the specific temperature effect on the brittle-to-ductile transition of the cutting mechanism for future designing thermal-involved processes to machine soft-brittle materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103620
JournalInternational Journal of Machine Tools and Manufacture
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020


  • Brittle-to-ductile transition
  • Cutting mechanism
  • Nano scratch
  • Soft-brittle crystals
  • Temperature effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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