Metallic Glasses More Complicated Than ThoughtCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: May 18, 2012 12:38PM
Many materials can be described as crystals because their molecule structure is well ordered and repeats. Those materials with disorderly structures are called glasses, and they can have some interesting properties. In the case of metallic glasses, instead of sharply transitioning from a solid to a liquid when heated, the phase change may take place slowly, over a greater range of temperatures. Some metallic glasses will actually exist in a part molten part solid state.
The properties of glasses, like many other materials, are defined by their molecular structure, which researchers had thought was comprised of pentagons in metallic glasses. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison have successfully identified other shapes in the mix too. Squares and hexagon were found in the one-to-three nanometer range, which has traditionally been a hard resolution to observe.
Knowledge like this could lead to more uses of metallic glasses, which are primarily found in electrical transformer cores at the moment. These materials have a great deal of potential though as they can be molded like plastic and their manufacturing methods extend to the micro and nanoscale. We may see metallic glasses one day being used to grow forests of nanowires and even the world's smallest geared motor.