Clues for Making Better Metallic Glass
For most people, if they were to hold a piece of metal and a crystal in their hands, they would think the two materials have nothing in common. That would not be completely true as they are both crystals, meaning the molecules within them have a regular structure. When a material does not have such a regular structure, they are considered a glass, and metallic glasses are very interesting for many applications. One problem with them though is their brittleness, but researchers at Berkeley Lab and Caltech have found something that may help change that.
Thanks to their irregular molecular structures, metallic glasses can be stronger than their crystal counterparts, malleable as plastics, while also conducting electricity and resisting corrosion. With properties like those, it is not surprising that many industries are trying to use them. In bulk though, the glasses are brittle, so composite glasses, which can be less brittle, are used instead, but the researchers have found one kind of bulk glass that is as fatigue resistant as those composites. It turns out that palladium-based bulk metallic glasses have a unique staircase-like crack pattern within them. This pattern protects against large cracks by limiting the opening and closing of the any cracks.
If this pattern can be replicated in other metallic glasses, we may see pure, bulk metallic glasses being used for a variety of devices in the future. Such devices could include smartphones, biomedical implants, and more electronic devices.
Source: Berkeley Lab