In-situ bright field transmission electron microscopy (TEM) nanomechanical tensile testing and in-situ automated crystallographic orientation mapping in TEM were combined to unravel the elementary mechanisms controlling the plasticity of ultrafine grained Aluminum freestanding thin films. The characterizations demonstrate that deformation proceeds with a transition from grain rotation to intragranular dislocation glide and starvation plasticity mechanism at about 1% deformation. The grain rotation is not affected by the character of the grain boundaries. No grain growth or twinning is detected.

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See supplementary material at http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4868124 for details on the synthesis and in situ TEM deformation of freestanding Al beams. The characterization of native oxide layer on the surface of the Al films is also presented.

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