• ferroelastic materials;
  • yttria;
  • zirconia

In situ neutron diffraction patterns were recorded from a 3Y-TZP sample during a complete loading–unloading cycle at compressive loads up to 2.3 GPa. The macroscopic stress–strain diagram shows elastic behavior to 1.7 GPa followed by volume conserving plastic strains of ∼1.6 × 103. There were no signs of tm transformation in the neutron diffraction patterns, and intensity changes in the pattern show that the plasticity is due to ferroelastic switching of tetragonal zirconia crystals. Quantification of the degree of switching gives good agreement with the macroscopic strains. The ferroelastic switching is completely reversed by a process akin to creep relaxation on unloading. Lattice parameters, elastic constants, and structural changes as a function of load are also discussed.