Tracking microstructure evolution in complex biaxial strain paths: a bulge test methodology for the scanning electron microscope

Emeric Plancher (Corresponding author), K. Qu, N.H. Vonk, M.B. Gorji, T. Tancogne-Dejean, Cem C. Tasan (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this work, a novel method is presented to track site-specific microstructure evolution in metallic materials deformed biaxially along proportional and complex strain paths. A miniaturized bulge test setup featuring a removable sample holder was designed to enable incremental measurements to be performed in a scanning electron microscope, by probing the same position on the sample at different deformation levels, with electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), electron channeling contrast imaging (ECCI) and other imaging modes. Validation experiments were performed at room temperature on samples prepared from commercial sheet metal (dual-phase steel) and foils (stainless steel). Local strain measurements with the digital image correlation technique confirmed that proportional strain paths with a strain ratio up to 5 can be investigated using elliptical dies in the bulge test holder. It is also shown how complex strain paths can be obtained using a combination of overlapping elliptical dies. Incremental EBSD and ECCI were conducted in configurations relevant for the multi-scale investigation of localized plasticity and damage mechanisms in dual-phase steel. Quantitative information regarding microstructure evolution (phase fractions, orientation fields, dislocation structures, etc.) and regarding local strain distributions could be successfully obtained. This type of data sheds light on underlying deformation mechanisms and provides opportunities to calibrate crystal plasticity models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-50
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Mechanics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Biaxial loading
  • EBSD
  • ECCI
  • Micro-mechanics
  • SEM


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