Researchers predict new composite metal will revolutionize industry

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Researchers hope new technology will lead to stronger, lighter classes of composite metals.

Imagine a super-strong metal that is extremely light weight and can be used in automobiles, and even in spacecraft to visit other planets.  That is what researchers are looking to get from a new metal infused with ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles.

A team of researchers from UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering has created a new metal, well, actually a metal nanocomposite, with an extremely high stiffness-to-weight ratio, that is super-strong, but lightweight as well.

The new material is could be used to build lightweight airplanes and automobiles that could greatly enhance the fuel efficiency of the vehicles, and possibly could be used in biomedical devices and mobile communication components as well.

Of course the thought of an extremely strong, but very lightweight metal composite has endless possibilities for space travel, and could be the building blocks of a colony on another planet or even a temporary home on an asteroid for studying.

And it may just be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.  The researchers also developed a manufacturing method that could lead the way for even more high-performance metals to be designed.

The team found a way to disperse and stabilize nanoparticles in molten metals, leading to the new material.  The principal investigator, Xiaochun Li, Raytheon Chair in Manufacturing Engineering at UCLA, said until now, no groups had been able to disperse ceramic nanoparticles in molten metal, even though it had been proposed for some time that it could be done without damaging the plasticity of metals, whilet at the same time enhancing their strength.

He added this new discovery will pave the way to enhance many new metals to meet the energy and sustainability challenges facing society today by evenly dispersing dense nanoparticles.

Li also said the results the team obtained are just scratching the surface and there may be a hidden treasure for new classes of metals with new functionalities and properties.

The research was funded in part by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and was published in the journal Nature.

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