Spatial fluctuations of the microstructure suggest possible self-organized criticality in the Portevin–Le Chatelier plastic instability occurring in age-hardenable alloys. The discontinuous yielding found in a supersaturated Al alloy can be characterized by a universal power-law spectrum that is independent of the experimental conditions. The result provides an explanation for the formation of unexpected detrimental strain localizations when samples are severely deformed, giving a framework for studying the simultaneous effects of solute atoms and precipitates in the decomposition of solid solutions.
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