Modelling the torsion of thin metal wires by distortion gradient plasticity

Lorenzo Bardella and Andrea Panteghini

Department of Civil, Environmental, Architectural Engineering and Mathematics, University of Brescia, Via Branze, 4325123, Brescia, Italy


Under small strains and rotations, we apply a phenomenological higher-order theory of distortion gradient plasticity to the torsion problem, here assumed as a paradigmatic benchmark of small-scale plasticity. Peculiar of the studied theory, proposed about ten years ago by Morton E. Gurtin, is the constitutive inclusion of the plastic spin, affecting both the free energy and the dissipation. In particular, the part of the free energy, called the defect energy, which accounts for Geometrically Necessary Dislocations is a function of Nye's dislocation density tensor, dependent on the plastic distortion, including the plastic spin. For the specific torsion problem, we implement this distortion gradient plasticity theory into a Finite Element (FE) code characterised by implicit (Backward Euler) time integration, numerically robust and accurate for both viscoplastic and rate-independent material responses. We show that, contrariwise to other higher-order theories of strain gradient plasticity (neglecting the plastic spin), the distortion gradient plasticity can predict some strengthening even if a quadratic defect energy is chosen. On the basis of the results of many FE analyses, concerned with (i) cyclic loading, (ii) switch in the higher-order boundary conditions during monotonic plastic loading, (iii) the use of non-quadratic defect energies, and (iv) the prediction of experimental data, we mainly show that (a) including the plastic spin contribution in a gradient plasticity theory is highly recommendable to model small-scale plasticity, (b) less-than-quadratic defect energies may help in describing the experimental results, but they may lead to anomalous cyclic behaviour, and (c) dissipative (unrecoverable) higher-order finite stresses are responsible for an unexpected mechanical response under non-proportional loading.

Author Keywords: Gradient plasticity; strain compatibility; Dislocations; Strengthening and mechanisms; Finite elements