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Brittle-ductile transitions in a metallic glass.

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Recent computational and laboratory experiments have shown that brittle-ductile transitions in the notch toughnesses of metallic glasses such as Vitreloy 1 are strongly sensitive to the initial effective disorder (or "fictive") temperature. Glasses with lower effective temperatures are weak and brittle; those with higher effective temperatures are strong and ductile. The analysis of this phenomenon presented here examines the onset of fracture at the tip of a notch as predicted by the shear-transformation-zone theory of spatially varying plastic deformation. The central ingredient of this analysis is an approximation for the dynamics of the plastic zone formed by stress concentration at the notch tip. This zone first shields the tip but then, with increasing stress, expands suddenly, producing a discontinuous transition between brittle and ductile failure in satisfactory agreement with the numerical and experimental observations.

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