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Liquid-to-glass transition process gains clarity

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Carlton Barr
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MADISON, Wis. - For millennia, people have used molten sand and other ingredients to create glass and fashion beads, vessels, lenses and windows.

These days, metallic glasses - made entirely of metal atoms - are being developed for biomedical applications such as extra-sharp surgical needles, stents, and artificial joints or implants because the alloys can be ultra-hard, extra strong, very smooth and resistant to corrosion.

While a combination of trial and error and scientific research helped refine glassmaking processes over time, controlling the creation of metallic glasses at the atomic level remains an inexact endeavor informed largely by long experience and intuition.

"Our job," says Paul Voyles, "is to build fundamental understanding by adding more data."

It also could help reduce time and costs associated with developing new metallic glass materials, and provide manufacturers greater insight into process design.

One processing challenge is that as metals transitions from molten liquid to solid, they tend to form orderly, regularly repeating atomic structures called crystals.

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Carlton Barr
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