A review of the new approach to the understanding of the structural relaxation of metallic glasses based on the interstitialcy theory has been presented. The key hypothesis of this theory proposed by Granato consists of the statement that the thermodynamic properties of crystalline, liquid and glassy states are closely related to the interstitial defects in the dumbbell (split) configuration, called also interstitialcies. It has been argued that structural relaxation of metallic glasses takes place through a change of the concentration of interstitialcy defects frozen-in from the melt upon glass production. Because of a strong interstitialcy-induced shear softening, the defect concentration can be precisely monitored by measurements of the unrelaxed shear modulus. Depending on the relation between the current interstitialcy concentration c and interstitialcy concentration in the metastable equilibrium, different types of structural relaxation (decreasing or increasing c) can be observed. It has been shown that this approach leads to a correct description of the relaxation kinetics at different testing conditions, heat effects occurring upon annealing, shear softening and a number of other structural relaxation-induced phenomena in metallic glasses. An intrinsic relation of these phenomena with the anharmonicity of the interatomic interaction has been outlined. A generalized form of the interstitialcy approach has been reviewed.
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