Sunday, May 15, 2011

Metallic glass, cheap and strong

Apparently a new technique from Caltec has created a material stronger than steel, but cheap and fairly easy to make... its glass... actually metallic glass. 20 times stronger and stiffer than plastic.

Engineers have known about this for years, but it wasn't easy to make. Liquidmetal is a trade name for one of the alloys, used mostly in very high end products.

The problem was that it was hard to heat up the metallic mix in a way that prevented it from cooling back down into a crystalline lattice structure... They couldn't heat it up, and then cool it down fast enough for it to stay amorphous. the process was hard, and needed a lot of precision steps.

The solution they found was pretty clever. They can use massive amounts of electricity to heat the stuff up in seconds, basically zapping it with something like an arc welder. then stamping it into a mold, and using another process not detailed (probably dumping it in very cold water) to cool it down just as fast as it was heated up. MUCH easier.

Why is this cool?... all the stuff we buy that's plastic may someday be made out of shiny glass metals like Ti40Cu36Pd14Zr10 or Mg60Zn35Ca5  Both of them cheaper and stronger than steel, easy to make, non-toxic, and NOT made from a petroleum byproduct.