Nov 24, 2017 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Strong And Light Supermetal Created In The Labs Of UCLA

Dec 24, 2015 02:45 AM EST

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Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a strong metal that is also light. This new metal is made up of magnesium infused with a dense ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticle.

In order to create this extremely strong and lightweight metal, the researchers developed a new method in dispersing and stabilizing nanoparticles in molten metals. Nanoparticles can boost the strength of the materials by binding. It is not just the strength but also the flexibility of the materials that is improved by this method.

"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," Xiaochun Li, the principal investigator on the research and Raytheon Chair in Manufacturing Engineering at UCLA, said. "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."

This new silicon carbide-infused magnesium demonstrated record levels of specific strength. The specific strength had an astonishing weight-to-durability characteristics. This material can also endure high temperature. Silicon carbide is an ultra-hard ceramic that is already used in industrial cutting-blades so the mentioned features should not be taken as a surprise.

Nanoscale particles can enhance strength while maintain or improve the metal's plasticity. However, these ceramic particles also tend to clump together rather than disperse. To counteract these issues, researchers dispersed particles into a molten magnesium zinc alloy.

"The results we obtained so far are just scratching the surface of the hidden treasure for a new class of metals with revolutionary properties and functionalities," Li said.

The new metal nanocomposite is about 14 percent silicon carbide nanoparticles and 86 percent magnesium. Magnesium is not a rare resource, thus scaling up its use will not cause environmental hazards.

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