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Scientists Create New Super Strong Metal With Nanotechnology

Magnesium Silicon Carbide Nanocomposite
Credit: UCLA Scifacturing Laboratory

A team of UCLA led scientists have conjured a new magnesium based metal with the help of nanoparticles and it just might find application in a variety of industries ranging from aeronautics and space to automotive and biomedical, according to a university news release.

As a result of their breakthrough–the findings of which were published on December 23 in the journal Nature–the researchers have created a new method that, according to the study’s principal investigator, Xiaochun Li, “paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kinds of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today’s society.”

Up until now, the notion of infusing metals with nanoparticles to enhance their strength without a loss in plasticity was nothing more than an idea as far as even dispersal of the nanoparticles was concerned, but with the recent development, the researchers have managed to overcome the otherwise prevailing obstacle of evenly dispersing and stabilizing the ceramic nanoparticles in a molten metal.

It’s been proposed that nanoparticles could really enhance the strength of metals without damaging their plasticity, especially light metals like magnesium, but no groups have been able to disperse ceramic nanoparticles in molten metals until now (…) With an infusion of physics and materials processing, our method paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kinds of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today’s society.

Testing the new metal, a silicon carbide-infused magnesium that is more accurately referred to as a metal nanocomposite, the researchers observed record levels specific modulus and strength — measures of the ratio of stiffness to weight and the material’s breaking point, which is measured by how much weight it is able to tolerate.

Additionally, the new material also exhibited a “superior” level of stability when exposed to high temperatures.

In order to evenly disperse the particles and prevent them from clumping together, the researchers infused a molten magnesium zinc alloy with nanoparticles that they stabilized and evenly dispersed using a new technique that relies on the kinetic energy produced by the movement of the particles.

To strengthen the new material, which is roughly 86 percent magnesium and 14 percent silicon carbide, the scientists behind its creation applied a high-pressure torsion compression.

According to Li, they’ve only scratched “the surface of the hidden treasure for a new class of metals with revolutionary properties and functionalities,” or in other words: it’s only the beginning of a new era of revolutionary metal nanocomposites.

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