Feeds

Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years

Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Yale University boffins have devised a new way of identifying super strong metallic glass alloys that will "drastically" increase the discovery rate of the "potentially revolutionary" materials.

Scientists are currently rushing to classify various complex alloys known as bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) from a a "vast compositional space". There are thought to be about 200 million of the alloys left to discover.

However, the current technique for finding the alloys is a painfully slow process of trial and error. At the current rate of discovery, says Jan Schroers, senior author of the paper, it would take some 4,000 years to clarify the precise combinations of elements which can make the metallic glass materials.

The team behind Yale's new discovery claim their technique could test the rest of the remaining alloys at rate of about 3,000 a day – up from a rate of just one a day – potentially uncovering all the metallic glasses in a matter of years, rather than millennia.

The new method could reduce the time it would take to process all possible combinations to about four years, Schroers told YaleNews.

So far, researchers have catalogued around 120,000 metallic glasses, which could be useful components in consumer or biomedical technologies.

"Instead of fishing with a single hook, we're throwing a big net," said Schroers. "This should dramatically hasten the discovery of BMGs and new uses for them."

Since 2010, he and his team have tested some 50,000 alloys using the new method, identifying three brand new ones in the process.

The technique includes a process called parallel blow forming, which forms "bubblegum-like bubbles" from the alloys, so their varying pliability and strength can be assessed.

"Instead of blowing one bubble on one material, we blow-form 3,000 bubbles on 3,000 different materials," Schroers added.

A technique called combinatorial sputtering is used in conjunction with the parallel blow forming used to create thousands of different alloys at the same time, mixing elements in tiny, intricately controlled portions to produce samples which are just a micron thick.

As well as saving time, the process saves money because less of the potentially costly elements are required.

Bulk metallic glasses are generally composed of three or more elements, such as magnesium, copper, and yttrium.

When heated and combined in exactly the correct way, they produce what Yale described as "materials with unusual plasticity and strength".

This glass can then be fashioned into shapes which no other metal can match.

The first BMG was produced at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1960. In a paper on the research into the exciting new materials, Caltech said:

"These bulk metallic glasses have unusual properties. They are typically much stronger than crystalline metal counterparts (by factors of 2 or 3), are quite tough (much more so than ceramics), and have very high strain limits for Hookean elasticity. A new class of engineering materials, BMG's offer an opportunity to revolutionize the field of structural materials with combinations of strength, ductility, toughness, and processability outside the envelope achievable using current technology."

Boffins recently predicted doctors would one day be able to fix bones using a metallic glass which gradually dissolves to be replaced by bone.

The paper on the Yale research is called "Combinatorial development of bulk metallic glasses" and is published in Nature Materials. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?