Caltech Develops Nanoscale Structures with Superior Mechanical Properties
University researchers find a way to make brittle materials flexible and stronger through size reduction
The work, by Dongchan Jang, senior postdoctoral scholar, and Julia R. Greer, assistant professor of materials science and mechanics at Caltech, could eventually lead to the development of innovative, superstrong, yet light and damage-tolerant materials.
The scientists devised a process to make zirconium-rich metallic glass pillars that are just 100 nanometers in diameter—roughly 400 times narrower than the width of a human hair. At this size, Greer says, "the metallic glasses become not only even stronger, but also ductile, which means they can be deformed to a certain elongation without breaking. Strength plus ductility," she says, represents "a very lucrative combination for structural applications."These new materials could be used as components in structural applications, such as in lightweight aerospace vehicles that last longer under extreme environmental conditions and in naval vessels that are resistant to corrosion and wear.