New super strong alloy discovered

Sep 08, 2010
Dr Peter Liddicoat next to the atom probe.

(PhysOrg.com) -- International team of researchers has discovered a new super-strength light alloy and had their key findings published in Nature Communications.

A North Carolina State University researcher and colleagues have figured out a way to make an aluminum alloy, or a mixture of aluminum and other elements, just as strong as steel.

That's important, says Dr. Yuntian Zhu, professor of materials science and the NC State researcher involved in the project, because the search for ever lighter - yet stronger - materials is crucial to devising everything from more fuel-efficient cars to safer airplanes.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, Zhu and his colleagues describe the new nanoscale architecture within aluminum alloys that have unprecedented strength but also reasonable plasticity to stretch and not break under stress. Perhaps even more importantly, the technique of creating these nanostructures can be used on many different types of metals.

Zhu says the aluminum alloys have unique structural elements that, when combined to form a hierarchical structure at several nanoscale levels, make them super-strong and ductile.

The aluminum alloys have small building blocks, called "grains," that are thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair. Each grain is a tiny crystal less than 100 nanometers in size. Bigger is not better in materials, Zhu says, as smaller grains result in stronger materials.

Zhu also says the aluminum alloys have a number of different types of crystal "defects." Nanocrystals with defects are stronger than perfect crystals.

The unexpectedly high level of strengthening appears to be due to two factors. Firstly, the way that the alloying elements are arranged within the grains is thought to increase the dislocation-storage capacity of the alloy. Secondly, the clustering of elements between the grains could limit nanocrystal growth, increase the cohesion of the grains, and resist embrittlement and defect generation.

Imaging of nano-sized grains inside an aluminum alloy. Colored blobs show the grains: colored dots show clusters of zinc and magnesium atoms that strengthen the material. (Yonghao Zhao/UC Davis graphic)

Now, Zhu plans on working on strengthening magnesium, a metal that is even lighter than aluminum. He's collaborating with the Department of Defense on a project to make magnesium strong enough to be used as body armor for soldiers.

Zhu's colleagues on the Nature Communications paper are affiliated with the University of Sydney in Australia; the University of California, Davis; and Ufa State Aviation Technical University in Russia.

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More information: "Nanostructural hierarchy increases the strength of aluminium alloys" Authors: Yuntian Zhu, North Carolina State University; Peter Liddicoat, Simon P. Ringer and Xiao-Zhou Liao, University of Sydney; Yonghao Zhao and Enrique J. Lavernia, University of California, Davis; Maxim Y. Murashkin and Rusian Z. Valiev, Ufa State Aviation Technical University. Published: Sept. 7, 2010, in Nature Communications.

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User comments : 29

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Bonkers
5 / 5 (8) Sep 08, 2010
What's it made of?
genastropsychicallst
1 / 5 (12) Sep 08, 2010
Atomic level is always less than 0, that's why electrons curve at the very last moments. Otherwise too straight particles begins of no light enough. Big bang ? Black hole ?? Aliens ???
genastropsychicallst
Sep 08, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (5) Sep 08, 2010
This is a very bad report because it does not once mention the wonderful material it is discussing. Nor is there any link to further information. The departments in question have been issuing reports on nitrides, but both their own and 'Nature' news lag this unfortunate press release.
Sirinx
1.9 / 5 (7) Sep 08, 2010
The bronze alloy is made of aluminium, zinc, magnesium and copper heated to 460°C before undergoing a rapid hardening process, i.e. quenching.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.5 / 5 (8) Sep 08, 2010
Mean, dig on Hawking. That's why I've been a gardner.

I thought it was because you were a rather lucid indigent who really enjoyed smoking his plants.
knikiy
Sep 08, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
fmfbrestel
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2010
Yeah, very disappointed in this article. All i know is that it is "stronger then predicted", and a little about the microscopy used to study it.

When your headline reads: "New super strong alloy discovered", you better be able to back that up with something. So much hyperbole on this site.....
Ravenrant
5 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2010
Doesn't say what it is, what it's made of or how strong it is. I think it is an alloy of butter and Osmium which is at least .001% stronger than all previous heavy butter alloys. Extremely ductile for smooth spreading.
Leathersoup
5 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2010
If they don't call it Hulk Hogium I'm going to be very upset.
El_Nose
5 / 5 (8) Sep 08, 2010
Also please remember people that this was created by a University and in order to gain profit off of the discovery they need to file all the international patents on it and then sell the rights to a few select companies to collect money. You do a press release stating the finding and the measurements but to bring in money to the university you do not ever release the composition, atomic weight or any other unique information that would allow antoher company to beat you to the money. But you need the press release to get a few interested buyers to come knock on your door.
yyz
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 08, 2010
Maybe something along the lines of:

Transparent aluminum: http://en.wikiped...aluminum

Neutronium: http://memory-alp...utronium

Tritanium: http://memory-alp...ritanium

Duranium: http://memory-alp...Duranium
thermodynamics
5 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2010
yyz: Great links. Those brought a good laugh today.
Caliban
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 08, 2010
Now, Zhu plans on working on strengthening magnesium, a metal that is even lighter than aluminum. He's collaborating with the Department of Defense on a project to make magnesium alloys strong enough to be used as body armor for soldiers.


Is anyone else struck by the potential for unintended consequences inherent in this notion?

I don't think that I would want to be wearing magnesium-alloy body armor in a firefight.

What if the developer/manufacturer overlooked some critical chemical-bonding or energy-state discontinuity in the alloy, and this stuff started oxidizing while you were wearing it? Being cooked like a turtle in its shell is something that holds no appeal for me.
otto1932
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 08, 2010
This is a very bad report because it does not once mention the wonderful material it is discussing. Nor is there any link to further information. The departments in question have been issuing reports on nitrides, but both their own and 'Nature' news lag this unfortunate press release.
Theres probably [money] a very good [money] reason for that [money].
otto1932
5 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2010
Now, Zhu plans on working on strengthening magnesium, a metal that is even lighter than aluminum. He's collaborating with the Department of Defense on a project to make magnesium alloys strong enough to be used as body armor for soldiers.


Is anyone else struck by the potential for unintended consequences inherent in this notion?

I don't think that I would want to be wearing magnesium-alloy body armor in a firefight.

What if the developer/manufacturer overlooked some critical chemical-bonding or energy-state discontinuity in the alloy, and this stuff started oxidizing while you were wearing it? Being cooked like a turtle in its shell is something that holds no appeal for me.
There was a problem with Bradleys and their aluminum armor igniting like thermite:
http://www.g2mil....inum.htm
Caliban
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2010
Now, Zhu plans on working on strengthening magnesium, a metal that is even lighter than aluminum. He's collaborating with the Department of Defense on a project to make magnesium alloys strong enough to be used as body armor for soldiers.


Is anyone else struck by the potential for unintended consequences inherent in this notion?

I don't think that I would want to be wearing magnesium-alloy body armor in a firefight.

What if the developer/manufacturer overlooked some critical chemical-bonding or energy-state discontinuity in the alloy, and this stuff started oxidizing while you were wearing it? Being cooked like a turtle in its shell is something that holds no appeal for me.
There was a problem with Bradleys and their aluminum armor igniting like thermite:
http://www.g2mil....inum.htm


Exactly. Plus I once watched a burning VW bus's engine catch fire in exactly the same way. It was fascinating. Obviously a big problem, though.
otto1932
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2010
What's it made of?

It's bronze alloy made of aluminium, zinc, magnesium and copper (Al-2.0Zn-1.8Mg-0.7 Cu) quenched after heating to 460C.
Aw jeez jigga somebody already posted that...oh sorry it was you, jigga.
jsa09
5 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2010
Let us not forget the Falklands war. One of the British ships made from Aluminium Alloy was hit by an exocet (french) missile. It burned quite brightly and caused a massive loss of life to the crew.
jsa09
5 / 5 (1) Sep 08, 2010
It may not have been a massive loss of life but it was a massive loss of ship. From memory I recall that it burned up, which would have been nasty to be on board.
xznofile
not rated yet Sep 08, 2010
what's the dislocation-storage capacity of the alloy? is that where defects accrue?
DaveGee
5 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2010
Odd indeed! Given the below quoted text it makes it sound as if 'this super strong allow' is "DONE". After all it presents no challenges in scaling nor materials cost or some other 'devil in the details' that always seem to put themselves right in the soup. Given who this researcher seems to be getting his funding from I'm not all that surprised that 'those pesky details' seem M.I.A. (yes, maybe a pun was intended).

Now, Zhu plans on working on strengthening magnesium, a metal that is even lighter than aluminum. He's collaborating with the Department of Defense on a project to make magnesium alloys strong enough to be used as body armor for soldiers.

DaveGee
5 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2010
A bit more meat for this story:

http://www.gizmag...l/16307/

Using a technique that creates a new nanoscale architecture, researchers have created an aluminum alloy just as strong as steel but with reasonable plasticity to stretch and not break under stress. Importantly, the technique of creating these nanostructures can be used on many different types of metals and the team plans to work on strengthening magnesium, a metal that is even lighter than aluminum that could be used to make strong, lightweight body armor for soldiers.
StandingBear
1 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2010
We like to think of big 'breakthroughs', but end up having to settle for small gains. Incremental gains, however, can and do add up. Look at the difference between an Amish cart and a new Lincoln.
dtxx
2 / 5 (5) Sep 09, 2010
Re: magnesium body armor... If you were to actually sustain an impact capable of spontaneously igniting it, do you really think you would survive anyways?

I hear at Burning Man there are a few groups of people who buy old magnesium engine blocks and burn them in a pit at the show. Could you imagine if some high raver kid fell in there? No one would ever even know unless they saw him go in.
chandram
4 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2010
Story is vague in science content and does not quantify the strength obtained vis-a-vis other comparative elemental alloys. No data in support is listed. May we avoid giving weight-age to such stories.
DaveGee
not rated yet Sep 09, 2010
Sure ... WE can.. :) but clearly the publishers can do as they sees fit. :(
KBK
1 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2010
What is REALLY bizarre..and I've done this personally myself..is that a Brown's gas torch will bring magnesium up to full brightness...exactly as if it is burning (so bright if that if you turn your head away with black goggles on and eyes clenched tight, it still blinds you)..but it WILL NOT, I repeat, WILL NOT ignite it.

Put that in yer thinker and smoke it.
eachus
5 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2010
This is a very bad report because it does not once mention the wonderful material it is discussing. Nor is there any link to further information. The departments in question have been issuing reports on nitrides, but both their own and 'Nature' news lag this unfortunate press release.


Yeah, sometimes that happens, but that is what Google is for: http://www.nature...062.html

The impressive part of the report is that these are two standard aluminium alloys subjected to rapid quenching. (Fast cooling.) If the crystal structure maintains itself over long periods of time (decades) This is a fairly simple added step in manufacturing with no added raw materials.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Sep 12, 2010
I think the big deal here is the potential uses in the aerospace industry, where aluminum is currently king.
eachus
5 / 5 (3) Sep 12, 2010
What is REALLY bizarre..and I've done this personally myself..is that a Brown's gas torch will bring magnesium up to full brightness...exactly as if it is burning...but it WILL NOT, I repeat, WILL NOT ignite it.


If you did this, you did it with a magnesium block. (Not necessarily a car engine block.) The ignition temperature of magnesium is high, but so is the conductivity. Try to light the corner of a block, and you can try all day--the conductivity takes away more heat than convection and radiation heating can transfer in.

Which means you can burn holes in magnesium rather than drilling them. If you do it with a laser from below, the magnesium dripping out of the hole provides most of the heat needed.

It just looks so cool to see the drops coming out of the hole burning, and disappear within a foot or so. (They float on the laser beam. ;-)

If you want to ignite magnesium, cut some cross-hatching in one corner.