Bulk nanopolycrystalline diamond (NPD) samples were deformed plastically within the diamond stability field up to 14 GPa and above 1473 K. Macroscopic differential stress Δσ was determined on the basis of the distortion of the 111 Debye ring using synchrotron X-ray diffraction. Up to ∼5(2)% strain, Debye ring distortion can be satisfactorily described by lattice strain theories as an ellipse. Beyond ∼5(2)% strain, lattice spacing d111 along the Δσ direction becomes saturated and remains constant with further deformation. Transmission electron microscopy on as-synthesized NPD shows well-bonded grain boundaries with no free dislocations within the grains. Deformed samples also contain very few free dislocations, while density of {111} twins increases with plastic strain. Individual grains display complex contrast, exhibiting increasing misorientation with deformation according electron diffraction. Thus, NPD does not deform by dislocation slip, which is the dominated mechanism in conventional polycrystalline diamond composites (PCDCs, grain size >1 μm). The nonelliptical Debye ring distortion is modeled by nucleating  dislocations or their dissociated  partials gliding in the {111} planes to produce deformation twinning. With increasing strain up to ∼5(2)%, strength increases rapidly to ∼20(1) GPa, where d111 reaches saturation. Strength beyond the saturation shows a weak dependence on strain, reaching ∼22(1) GPa at >10% strain. Overall, the strength is ∼2–3 times that of conventional PCDCs. Combined with molecular dynamics simulations and lattice rotation theory, we conclude that the rapid rise of strength with strain is due to defect-source strengthening, whereas further deformation is dominated by nanotwinning and lattice rotation.

Yanbin Wang, Feng Shi, Julien Gasc, Hiroaki Ohfuji, Bin Wen, Tony Yu, Timothy Officer, Norimasa Nishiyama, Toru Shinmei, and Tetsuo Irifune, Plastic Deformation and Strengthening Mechanisms of Nanopolycrystalline Diamond (2021) ACS Nano Article ASAP , DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.0c08737 abstract