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Caltech Researchers Develop Strongest Known Metal Alloy

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(credit: Caltech)

(credit: Caltech)

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PASADENA (CBS) — Caltech researchers say they’ve developed a new metal alloy that is stronger than any other metal known to science.

Nature Materials, a scientific journal, says the new alloy combines palladium, a small fraction of silver, and a mixture of other metalloids has shown through tests to have a combination of strength and toughness at a level not previously seen in any other material.

The metal’s molecules are not crystallized, like other metals, but are locked into what scientists call a glass-like fluid, but the material does not shatter like common glass.

“Our study demonstrates for the first time that this class of materials, the metallic glasses, has the capacity to become the toughest and strongest ever known,” said senior Caltech research fellow Marios Demetriou. The new discovery is “pushing the envelope of damage tolerance accessible to a structural metal.”

The discovery was made by a team of researchers that included William Johnson, the Caltech Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, and their Caltech colleagues.

Demetriou said the alloy could soon be used in biomedical implants, such as dental implants or in other structural applications like automotive or aerospace components, adding that the alloy is “prohibitively expensive. The cost is much too high for any large-scale, widespread use.”

He said scientists must determine what gives this alloy its unique damage tolerance, and how that can be replicated with alloys containing less-expensive precious metals.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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