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October 21, 2015

Scientists stretch metal to make it stronger

by John_A

Workers carrying steel beam in manufacturing plant

You’d think that stretching metal would make it weaker, but just the opposite is true… on a very small scale. Researchers have developed a technique that pulls nanoscopic metal crystals to eliminate defects. By gently and repeatedly stretching the crystal, scientists move “dislocations” (rows of atom-level defects) to free surfaces, where they’re ultimately forced out. The result is a metal that is considerably less likely to crack or otherwise fail over time.

You may not see this technique used to improve larger (that is, visible) metal, like what you see in buildings or vehicles. The same trick that improves nanoscale metal tends to make things worse at the macro level. However, it could be very helpful for processors and any other device where even the tiniest breaks could cause big problems. Don’t be surprised if you’re one day using electronics that last for years longer than you’re used to.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University, PNAS

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