Anomalous Grain Growth in a Polycrystalline Monolayer of Colloidal Hard Spheres

Francois A Lavergne, Dirk GAL Aarts, and Roel PA Dullens

Phys. Rev. X 2017 7 041064

Understanding grain growth is key for controlling the microstructure and the mechanical properties of most polycrystalline materials, including metals, alloys, and ceramics. However, the precise mechanisms and kinetics of grain growth remain poorly understood both at the theoretical level and experimentally as direct observation is cumbersome in atomic systems. Here, we study the grain growth process in a polycrystalline monolayer of colloidal hard spheres. We find that the bond-orientational correlation function satisfies the dynamic scaling hypothesis and has the general scaling form predicted for systems containing random domain walls. However, the associated correlation length grows slower than similar to t(1/2), which corresponds to normal curvature-driven grain growth. To understand the origin of this anomalous grain growth, we directly monitor the evolution of the grain boundary network by measuring the so-called grain boundary character distribution. We show that there is a strong annihilation of large-angle grain boundaries while small-angle grain boundaries become relatively more present. Using scaling arguments, we derive the time dependence of the correlation length and show its good agreement with the data. We conclude that the origin of anomalous grain growth is the curvature-driven coarsening of the large-angle grain boundaries at a rate that depends on their relative length in the total grain boundary network.