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Hard as ceramic, tough as steel: Newly discovered connection could help design of nextgen alloys

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Donald Ellison
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ANN ARBOR--A new way to calculate the interaction between a metal and its alloying material could speed the hunt for a new material that combines the hardness of ceramic with the resilience of metal.

The discovery, made by engineers at the University of Michigan, identifies two aspects of this interaction that can accurately predict how a particular alloy will behave--and with fewer demanding, from-scratch quantum mechanical calculations.

"Our findings may enable the use of machine learning algorithms for alloy design, potentially accelerating the search for better alloys that could be used in turbine engines and nuclear reactors," said Liang Qi, assistant professor of materials science and engineering who led the research.

Today's jet engines and nuclear reactors can't get too hot or else the metal of the engine's turbine or the reactor's internal components would soften.

A metal is mainly composed of a crystal lattice, with the atoms packed together in an orderly way.

"The properties of defects decide mechanical, thermal and irradiation performances of metals because atoms at defects usually have fewer constraints to move around compared with those at perfect positions," he said.

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