Engineers Show How to Inhibit Fractures in Solid Surfaces of Aircraft, Electronic Devices

January 30, 2008

Engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have found that a strong electric field can stabilize the surface of metals and other solids that conduct electricity, inhibiting the formation of cracks caused by stress. This innovation could improve the function and reliability of a wide variety of machines including aircraft, electronic devices and medical transplants.

Results of the study, led by Dimitrios Maroudas, a professor of chemical engineering at UMass Amherst, were published in the Jan. 25 edition of Physical Review Letters. The research team also includes doctoral student Vivek Tomar and M. Rauf Gungor, a research associate professor.

In metals and other crystalline solids that conduct electricity, stress is generally concentrated on the surface of the material. Stress also builds up at interfaces where two types of material are joined, for example an electronic circuit made of metal and plastic. The UMass Amherst study shows that the action of an electric field, properly applied while a material is under stress, can stabilize the surface or interface, inhibiting the formation of cracks and healing cracks that have already started.

“Traditionally, improving crack resistance has relied on improving the physical properties of the surface through polishing and coating, or strengthening the interfaces,” says Maroudas. “Our study proposes a drastically different approach to improving crack resistance and increasing the lifetime of components and devices.”

The electric field improves crack resistance by causing atoms on the surface of the material to migrate when hit by the flow of electricity or “electron wind,” a process similar to sand grains being blown across a beach. When properly applied, the electric field stabilizes the surface of the stressed solid by transporting material to different areas.

“This finding can have dramatic effects on structures used in modern electronics and nanofabrication technologies,” says Maroudas. “And the broader implications of this work are very exciting. For example, one can consider using magnetic fields for magnetic materials or light for optical materials.”

Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Explore further: Turning your living room into a wireless charging station

Related Stories

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

October 24, 2016

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how the ultrafast light-induced modulation of the atomic positions ...

UV light improves smartphone cameras

October 24, 2016

Photodetectors, which are used in a wide range of systems and devices from smartphones to space stations, are typically only sensitive to light within a certain narrow bandwidth. This presents numerous challenges to product ...

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

October 24, 2016

Yuan Yang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Columbia Engineering, has developed a new method to increase the energy density of lithium (Li-ion) batteries. He has built a trilayer structure that ...

Recommended for you

Shocks in the early universe could be detectable today

October 27, 2016

(—Physicists have discovered a surprising consequence of a widely supported model of the early universe: according to the model, tiny cosmological perturbations produced shocks in the radiation fluid just a fraction ...

Bubble nucleus discovered

October 27, 2016

Research conducted at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University has shed new light on the structure of the nucleus, that tiny congregation of protons and neutrons found at the core of ...

Neutrons prove the existence of 'spiral spin-liquid'

October 27, 2016

Magnetic moments ("spins") in magnetic solids are capable of forming the most diverse structures. Some of them are not only of interest from a scientific point of view, but also from a technical standpoint: processors and ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 01, 2008
Wow and Star Trek type thing. ref: Enterprise
Who knew.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.