When metals are created using traditional methods the results aren’t that sure. But using a technology with nano-particles ensures that the newly created metal will have a fine and homogeneous structure.
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The hardness of metals is usually dependent on the grain of the material on a microscopic scale. The finer the grain the harder the metal. And currently, when you want to make a hard metal you usually use “macroscopic” technologies of metal processing such as forging, bending, and torsion.
Ou Chen and his team from Brown University decided to take a different approach. They decided to look at the microscopic structure of metals, and the result is a metal much harder than the ones created with traditional methods as these technologies try to make the grain finer with brute force, and thus it is challenging to have a good standard in the final texture.
The team from Brown University creates hard metals from nano-particles of the given metal that are arranged into building blocks. When these blocks of nano-particles are pushed together, they create an extremely hard metal with a uniform grain. On top of that, the size of the grain can be very precisely set depending on the future usage of the metal.
The researchers had to solve a problem with organic lipids that tend to be attached to the surfaces of metals and prevent the particles of the metal from tightly bond to each other. That’s why they developed a chemical process that removes the lipids from the surface of metal particles. Then, the nano-particles can be connected through a process called pressure-sintering.
Chen and his colleagues created coin-shaped metal pieces using this process and they used different metals such as gold, silver, or palladium. With further testing, they found out that these “coins” are much harder than they would be using traditional methods of metal manufacturing while the other physical properties of the metals were essentially the same as if they were created by traditional means.
The scientists also proved that metallic glass can be made with this process – metal materials with an amorphous structure. So far, it was hard if not impossible to create metallic glass from a single metal making the majority of current metallic glass alloys yet Chen and his team managed to create a metallic glass made purely from palladium.
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