The “instruction manual” – put together by Australian scientists – to making metallic glass has been published in Nature Communications. The research puts forward a model that will allow for the prediction of the combination of metals to be used to create the alloy.
The metallic glass, also known as amorphous metal, is a flexible and ultra-tough alloy that is not only extremely malleable but also stronger than steel — two features that depend on its temperature: when heated it is comparable in flexibility to chewing gum and when cooled down, it is three times tougher than steel.
Several teams of researchers have attempted to create metallic glass in the past; they used different combinations of metals such as magnesium, palladium and copper. But, the processes would usually be expensive and time-consuming. On the other hand, the new research entails the creation of a model that will allegedly allow scientists to estimate the right metal combinations that would be easy and fast to deal with.
The model involves the very atomic structure of the material. It will be used to predict which sets of metals will be ideal for the creation of a metallic glass.
“Until now, discovering alloy compositions that form these materials has required a lengthy process of trial and error in the laboratory,” lead researcher Kevin Laws from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) said in a statement to the press. “With our new instruction manual we can start to create many new useful metallic glass-types and begin to understand the atomic fundamentals behind their exceptional properties.”
The Australian scientists have already had success in predicting over 200 new metallic glass alloys.
“We will also be able to engineer these materials on an atomic scale so they have the specific properties we want,” said Laws.
“Metallic glass alloys are expensive to manufacture and to date have only been used in niche products, such as ejector pins for iPhones, watch springs for expensive hand-wound watches, trial medical implants, and tennis racquets and golf clubs. They are also planned for use in the next Mars rover vehicle,” added Laws.
“But if they become easier and cheaper to make, they could be widely used in many applications, including as exceptionally strong components in personal electronic devices, in space exploration vehicles, and as hydrogen storage materials in next generation batteries.”