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In small-scale metallic systems, collective dislocation activity has been correlated with size effects in strength and with a steplike plastic response under uniaxial compression and tension. Yielding and plastic flow in these samples is often accompanied by the emergence of multiple dislocation avalanches. Dislocations might be active preyield, but their activity typically cannot be discerned because of the inherent instrumental noise in detecting equipment. We apply alternate current load perturbations via dynamic mechanical analysis during quasistatic uniaxial compression experiments on single crystalline Cu nanopillars with diameters of 500 nm and compute dynamic moduli at frequencies 0.1, 0.3, 1, and 10 Hz under progressively higher static loads until yielding. By tracking the collective aspects of the oscillatory stress-strain-time series in multiple samples, we observe an evolving dissipative component of the dislocation network response that signifies the transition from elastic behavior to dislocation avalanches in the globally preyield regime. We postulate that microplasticity, which is associated with the combination of dislocation avalanches and slow viscoplastic relaxations, is the cause of the dependency of dynamic modulus on the driving rate and the quasistatic stress. We construct a continuum mesoscopic dislocation dynamics model to compute the frequency response of stress over strain and obtain a consistent agreement with experimental observations. The results of our experiments and simulations present a pathway to discern and quantify correlated dislocation activity in the preyield regime of deforming crystals.

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Ni, Xiaoyue., Papanikolaou, Stefanos., Vajente, Gabriele., Adhikari, Rana X., & Greer, Julia R. (2017). Probing Microplasticity In Small-Scale Fcc Crystals Via Dynamic Mechanical Analysis. Physical Review Letters, 118(15).