Dissemination of IT for the Promotion of Materials Science (DoITPoMS)


Dislocations in 3D

In three dimensions, the nature of a dislocation as a line defect becomes apparent. The dislocation line runs along the core of the dislocation, where the distortion with respect to the perfect lattice is greatest.

There are two types of three-dimensional dislocation. An edge dislocation has its Burgers vector perpendicular to the dislocation line. Edge dislocations are easiest to visualise as an extra half-plane of atoms. A screw dislocation is more complex - the Burgers vector is parallel to the dislocation line. Mixed dislocations also exist, where the Burgers vector is at some acute angle to the dislocation line. In a 2D model such as the bubble raft, only edge dislocations can exist.

Diagram of an edge dislocation showing line and Burgers vectors Diagram of a screw dislocation showing line and Burgers vectors

Edge and screw dislocations with line and Burgers vectors shown.

Virtual reality model of an edge dislocation

Virtual reality model of a screw dislocation

When a dislocation moves under an applied shear stress:

  • individual atoms move in directions parallel to the Burgers vector;
  • the dislocation moves in a direction perpendicular to the dislocation line.

An edge dislocation therefore moves in the direction of the Burgers vector, whereas a screw dislocation moves in a direction perpendicular to the Burgers vector. The screw dislocation 'unzips' the lattice as it moves through it, creating a 'screw' or helical arrangement of atoms around the core.

The ease of dislocation glide is partly determined by the degree of distortion (with respect to the perfect lattice) around the dislocation core. When the distortion is spread over a large area, the dislocation is easy to move. Such dislocations are known as wide dislocations, and exist in ductile metals. More...