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New Metal Alloy Is Stronger Than Steel But Can Be Molded Like Plastic

By / 03.02.11

In a solid state, atoms in metals are arranged in neat rows and layers, which makes them strong but also unable to mold like plastics.  The atoms in glass don’t have such a neat arrangement, which I found out the hard way when I was roommates with a block of glass.  That glasshole left his dirty clothes all over the floor and left toothpaste in the sink.  Stupid messy glass.  You don’t need clothes and you don’t have teeth.  Why do you do this?

Searching for a way to combine the uneven atomic arrangement of glass with the strength and durability of metal, Jan Schroers and his team at Yale have developed a bulk metallic glass (BMG) which is as easy to mold as plastic yet twice as strong as steel.  The BMG items in the inset picture were blow molded in a vacuum at a low temperature and low pressure using of a combination of several metals, including zirconium, nickel, titanium, and copper.

In addition, by blow molding the BMGs, the team was able to combine three separate steps in traditional metal processing (shaping, joining and finishing) into one, allowing them to carry out previously cumbersome, time- and energy-intensive processing in less than a minute. [Yale]

They used a unique mixture of several metallic atoms of various sizes, so that — when combined with low temperature, low pressure, and a vacuum or liquid submersion to remove the air — the atoms in the alloy don’t fit into neat rows and layers as they cool into a solid. Unfortunately, some of the metals needed are expensive, raising the total cost of materials to that of high-end steel.  On the other hand, being able to blow mold metal alloys in one step in one minute lowers the overall cost dramatically.  Furthermore, it is taking a tremendous amount of restraint to not fill this entire post with jokes about blowing things quickly and cheaply.

[Sources: Yale, NextBigFuture, and Gizmodo]


TAGSBMGBULK METALLIC GLASSJAN SCHROERSKIND OF A BIG DEALscienceYALE

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