Just as you cannot judge a book by its cover, you cannot judge a material by its composition. For some compounds with identical chemical formulae, different grain sizes can spawn very different characteristics. To help tap into this, researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new theoretical model for how allows will behave at high temperatures.
A challenge with materials made of nano-sized grains is that the grains may grow when they are heated, or just exposed to room temperature for too long. If the grains grow too large, then the properties the small grains granted will vanish, such as improved strength or hardness. To combat this, the North Carolina researchers created a model that can consider how nano-alloys made of two metals will behave when a third is added. Ideally, new atoms added to the alloys will migrate to the grain boundaries, where they interface with each other, and thereby prevent any growth.
With this model, it will be possible to test new nano-alloys much more rapidly than the more traditional trial-and-error approach. Also it should be possible to design alloy with specific properties, which the researchers are currently using it for, to develop lightweight aluminum alloys and alloys that can survive the high temperatures of nuclear energy.
Source: North Carolina State University