The transformation of zirconia from its tetragonal to its monoclinic phase is an important feature of the zirconia system. First found to be an advantage due to its important toughening effect, it can also be very detrimental when it occurs in the framework of low-temperature degradation, particularly in the case of biomaterial applications. One way to avoid or to control this phase transformation is to understand how it initiates and more particularly the stress states that can trigger it. A new technique available inside a transmission electron microscope seems to be particularly well suited for that type of study: convergent beam electron diffraction, a well-known technique to reveal stresses, was coupled to in situ transmission electron microscopy mechanical nanoindentation. The experiments reveal the presence of sheared nanoregions at grain boundaries. These could act as embryos for tetragonal-to-monoclinic phase transformations. This is an important first step in the understanding of the earliest stage of zirconia phase transformation.
- In situ
- Transmission electron microscopy