The emergence of small-scale self-affine surface roughness from deformation
Most natural and man-made surfaces appear to be rough on many length scales. There is presently no unifying theory of the origin of roughness or the self-affine nature of surface topography. One likely contributor to the formation of roughness is deformation, which underlies many processes that shape surfaces such as machining, fracture, and wear. Using molecular dynamics, we simulate the biaxial compression of single-crystal Au, the high-entropy alloy Ni36.67Co30Fe16.67Ti16.67, and amorphous Cu50Zr50 and show that even surfaces of homogeneous materials develop a self-affine structure. By characterizing subsurface deformation, we connect the self-affinity of the surface to the spatial correlation of deformation events occurring within the bulk and present scaling relations for the evolution of roughness with strain. These results open routes toward interpreting and engineering roughness profiles.