Sep 22, 2015

Scientists figure out how to make flexible materials 3 times stronger than steel

Posted by in categories: innovation, materials

Australian scientists have published an ‘instruction manual’ that makes it a whole lot easier and cheaper to create metallic glass — a type of flexible but ultra-tough alloy that’s been described as “the most significant materials science innovation since plastic”. The material is similar to the sci-fi liquid-type metal used to create the T-1000 in Terminator 2 - when it’s heated it’s as malleable as chewing gum, but when it cools it’s three times stronger than steel.

Researchers have been dabbling with the creation of metallic glass — or amorphous metal — for decades, and have made a range of different types by mixing metals such as magnesium, palladium, or copper — but only after an expensive and lengthy process of trial and error. Now, for the first time, Australian scientists have created a model of the atomic structure of metallic glass, and it will allow scientists to quickly and easily predict which metal combinations can form the unique material.

“Until now, discovering alloy compositions that form these materials has required a lengthy process of trial and error in the laboratory,” lead researcher Kevin Laws from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) said in a press release. “With our new instruction manual we can start to create many new useful metallic glass-types and begin to understand the atomic fundamentals behind their exceptional properties.”

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