Nanolaminate composite materials consist of alternating layers of materials at the nanoscale (≤100 nm). Due to the nanometer scale thickness of their layers, these materials display unique and tailorable properties. This enables us to alter both mechanical attributes such as strength and wear properties, as well as functional characteristics such as biocompatibility, optical, and electronic properties. This dissertation focuses on understanding the mechanical behavior of the Al-SiC system. From a practical perspective, these materials exhibit a combination of high toughness and strength which is attractive for many applications. Scientifically, these materials are interesting due to the large elastic modulus mismatch between the layers. This, paired with the small layer thickness, allows a unique opportunity for scientists to study the plastic deformation of metals under extreme amounts of constraint.
Previous studies are limited in scope and a more diverse range of mechanical characterization is required to understand both the advantages and limitations of these materials. One of the major challenges with testing these materials is that they are only able to be made in thicknesses on the order of micrometers so the testing methods are limited to small volume techniques. This work makes use of both microscale testing techniques from the literature as well as novel methodologies. Using these techniques we are able to gain insight into aspects of the material’s mechanical behavior such as the effects of layer orientation, flaw dependent fracture, tension-compression asymmetry, fracture toughness as a function of layer thickness, and shear behavior as a function of layer thickness.