Annealing hardening has recently been found in nanograined (ng) metals and alloys, which is ascribed to the promotion of grain boundary (GB) stability through GB relaxation and solute atom GB segregation. Annealing hardening is of great significance in extremely fine ng metals since it allows the hardness to keep increasing with a decreasing grain size which would otherwise be softened. Consequently, to synthesize extremely fine ng metals with a stable structure is crucial in achieving an ultrahigh hardness in ng metals. In the present work, direct current electrodeposition was employed to synthesize extremely fine ng Ni-Mo and Ni-P alloys with a grain size of down to a few nanometers. It is demonstrated that the grain size of the as-synthesized extremely fine ng Ni-Mo and Ni-P alloys can be as small as about 3 nm with a homogeneous structure and chemical composition. Grain size strongly depends upon the content of solute atoms (Mo and P). Most importantly, appropriate annealing induces significant hardening as high as 11 GPa in both ng Ni-Mo and Ni-P alloys, while the peak hardening temperature achieved in ng Ni-Mo is much higher than that in ng Ni-P. Electrodeposition is efficient in the synthesis of ultrahard bulk metals or coatings.
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