Quantitative analysis of the residual stress and dislocation density distributions around indentations in alumina and zirconia toughened alumina (ZTA) ceramics

Alumina, 10% and 20% ZTA with 1.5mol% yttria stabiliser were subjected to Vickers indentation testing with loads from 1 to 20kg. Cr fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy were applied to the indent centre and around the indentation in order to investigate the origin of the signal, the effect of indentation loads and zirconia phase transformation on the residual stress and plastic deformation in the plastic zone. The results suggested that with very strong laser scattering, the depth resolution of ZTA materials was very poor, which lead to a very significant amount of the signal being collected from the subsurface regions below the plastic zone. It was also found that zirconia phase transformation reduced the compressive residual stress in the alumina matrix within the plastic zone, except at the indentation centre, due to the tensile residual microstress generated by the zirconia phase transformation. In addition, the dislocation density on the indent surface of the ZTA samples was significantly reduced due to the restriction of crack propagation and energy absorption during the phase transformation process. At the indent centre, the zirconia phase transformation was suppressed by the high compressive stress, therefore, no significant difference between alumina and ZTA in terms of their residual stress and dislocation density were observed. Using TEM observation, it was found that the plastic zone microstructure of pure alumina is different from that of ZTA, which is consistent with the Cr fluorescence results.