Materials

New metallic glass material created by starving it of nuclei

New metallic glass material cr...
Yale researchers have developed a new type of metallic glass, by shrinking down nanorods of the material until they're too small to have a nucleus
Yale researchers have developed a new type of metallic glass, by shrinking down nanorods of the material until they're too small to have a nucleus
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Yale researchers have developed a new type of metallic glass, by shrinking down nanorods of the material until they're too small to have a nucleus
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Yale researchers have developed a new type of metallic glass, by shrinking down nanorods of the material until they're too small to have a nucleus

Metallic glass is an emerging type of material, so its secrets are still being discovered. While working with the stuff, a team of Yale researchers created a brand new type of metallic glass, by shrinking samples down to the nanoscale until it forms a unique crystalline phase.

Normally, solid metals have a rigid, crystalline atomic structure, but as their name suggests, metallic glasses are more like glass, with a random arrangement of atoms. Composed of complex alloys, they get their unusual structure when molten metal is cooled down extremely quickly, which prevents crystals from forming. The end result is a material that's as pliable as plastic during production but strong as steel afterwards, making them useful for objects like golf clubs and gears for robots.

The Yale researchers developed their new version of the material by making metallic glass nanorods with a diameter of just 35 nanometers. At a scale that tiny, there's no room for a crystal nucleus to form. The researchers dub the process "nucleus starvation," and it resulted in a new crystalline phase of the material.

"This gives us a handle to control the number of nuclei we provide in the sample," says Judy Cha, lead researcher on the project. "When it doesn't have any nuclei — despite the fact that nature tells us that there should be one — it generates this brand new crystalline phase that we've never seen before. It's a way to create a new material out of the old."

While it's difficult to tell exactly what applications this new form might have, the researchers say that the process of making it is the main advantage. By creating metallic glass nanorods of different diameters, the researchers can control how many nuclei they have and, as a result, open up a range of new crystalline phases. Testing the properties of those new materials could lead to some unexpected applications down the track.

"As we were doing this, more and more interesting phenomena popped up," says Cha. "We're unearthing all these interesting phenomena that occur at the nanoscale. We don't really know a lot about these systems, and when we work with them in smaller, nanometer scales, then a new science and a new physics emerge. That's exciting because it tells us that there are these new playgrounds emerging that we simply haven't paid much attention to before, and that there is still more to be explored."

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: Yale University

Update (Dec. 9, 2017): This article originally confused a crystal nucleus with an atomic nucleus. As some commenters have pointed out, the two are very different phenomena. The article has now been corrected to clarify that the study refers to crystal nuclei. We sincerely apologize for the error and thank those who brought it to our attention.

8 comments
VincentWolf
Now if they can just make it transparent like glass and as strong as steel. That should be hurricane proof. And bird proof for planes, etc.
Bob Stuart
This makes no sense at all. The nucleus defines an atom, and it is incredibly tiny. See how well they pack in neutron stars?
carl
Shades of Scotty from Star trek and transparent aluminum.
jim49
Under the laws of nature, as we understand them, this story doesn't make sense. We know what an atom is, now we've seen a starved atom looks like. We need to either revise the definition of what an atom is, or define this new state matter. Science is an evolving field of study. This discovery is revolutionary and it challenges us.
notarichman
so what is left? electrons and an occasional nucleus?
bryce
The article doesn't do a good job of clarifying it is not the nucleus of the atom, but the nucelus of the crystallization process that they are removing. Crystals generally have a starting point of forming, which is the nucleus. This new method denies the material the ability to form large crystalline structures. Read the source, it is an interesting read.
edjudy
While I am not certain, I think that very loose use of the word "nucleus" in this article is misleading readers. I THINK (<--- that's a BIG "I think") the text intended to convey that the material was starved for crystal nucleation sites, not that individual atoms were starved for nuclei. Loose lips sink glass ships. (-:
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Is this "solid electricity" as seen in an old science fiction movie? Is it charged? Electrically polarized? Mu metal is metglass. This should be even better magnetic shielding. Maybe it could be tape for the space elevator.