3D stochastic bicontinuous microstructures: Generation, topology and elasticity


Motivated by recent experimental investigations of the mechanical behavior of nanoporous metal we explore an efficient and robust method for generating 3D representative volume elements (RVEs) with strikingly similar behavior. Our approach adopts Cahn's method of generating a Gaussian random field by taking a superposition of standing sinusoidal waves of fixed wavelength but random in direction and phase. In its theory part, our study describes closed-form expressions for how the solid volume fraction affects the binarization level, mean structure size, specific surface area, averages of mean and Gaussian curvature, and the scaled topological genus. Based on numerical studies we report on criteria for achieving representative realizations of the structure by proper choice of the number of waves and element size. We also show that periodic structures are readily created. We analyze the mechanical properties considering linear and infinitesimal elasticity and evaluate the residual anisotropy (which can be made small) and the effective values of the Young's modulus and Poisson's ratio. The numerical results are in excellent agreement with experimental findings for the variation of stiffness with solid fraction of nanoporous gold made by dealloying. We propose scaling relations that achieve naturally a perfect agreement with the numerical and experimental data. The scaling relation for the stiffness accounts for a percolation-to-cluster transition in the random field microstructure at a finite solid fraction. We propose that this transition is the origin of the previously reported anomalous compliance of nanoporous gold.
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