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Jan 24, 2021

New technique builds super-hard metals from nanoparticles

Posted by in category: nanotechnology

Metallurgists have all kinds of ways to make a chunk of metal harder. They can bend it, twist it, run it between two rollers or pound it with a hammer. These methods work by breaking up the metal’s grain structure—the microscopic crystalline domains that form a bulk piece of metal. Smaller grains make for harder metals.

Now, a group of Brown University researchers has found a way to customize metallic grain structures from the bottom up. In a paper published in the journal Chem, the researchers show a method for smashing individual nanoclusters together to form solid macro-scale hunks of solid metal. Mechanical testing of the metals manufactured using the technique showed that they were up to four times harder than naturally occurring metal structures.

“Hammering and other hardening methods are all top-down ways of altering , and it’s very hard to control the you end up with,” said Ou Chen, an assistant professor of chemistry at Brown and corresponding author of the new research. “What we’ve done is create nanoparticle building blocks that fuse together when you squeeze them. This way we can have uniform grain sizes that can be precisely tuned for enhanced properties.”

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