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Robert Ritchie   (Source: Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs)
This damage-tolerant metallic glass is made of microalloys of palladium with phosphorous, germanium, silicon and silver

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have combined efforts to create a glass that is said to be the strongest out of any known material. 

Robert Ritchie, study leader and a material scientist from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, along with co-authors Marios Demetriou, Glenn Garrett, Joseph Schramm, Maximilien Launey, Douglas Hofmann, and William Johnson of the California Institute of Technology, have developed a glass that is tougher and stronger than steel.

Glassy materials have a non-crystalline, amorphous structure, which makes them strong yet brittle. This type of structure allows cracks and strains to spread throughout the material because the glass' amorphous structure cannot stop crack propagation. To remedy this, the Lawrence Berkeley/California Tech team designed what they called "DH3," which was a fabricated metallic glass capable of preventing cracks from spreading through the use of a second crystalline phase of the metal. While this method prevented the spread of cracks, these researchers wanted to take this research to the next level and make it stronger. 

The Lawrence Berkeley/California Tech team came together once again to develop this new glass, which is a damage-tolerant metallic glass made of microalloys of palladium, which has a high bulk-to-shear stiffness ratio. The difference between this new glass and DH3 is that their new creation also promotes extensive plasticity "through the formation of multiple shear bands before the bands turn into cracks." 

"These results mark the first use of a new strategy for metallic glass fabrication and we believe we can use it to make glass that will be even stronger and more tough," said Ritchie. "Because of the high bulk-to-shear modulus ratio of palladium-containing material, the energy needed to form shear bands is much lower than the energy required to turn these shear bands into cracks. The result is that glass undergoes extensive plasticity in response to stress, allowing it to bend rather than crack."

Ritchie added that it is important to make a metallic glass with at least five elements in order to quench the material, which means to cool the material. The first samples of the metallic glass consisted of microalloys of palladium with phosphorous, germanium, silicon and silver. This increases the thickness of the glass rods, but the size is limited to its need to rapidly quench the liquid metals for its final structure. When it comes time to quench the liquid metals, it doesn't know which crystal structure to form, so it automatically forms an amorphous structure. 

"Our game now is to try and extend this approach of inducing extensive plasticity prior to fracture to other metallic glasses through changes in composition," said Ritchie. "The addition of the palladium provides our amorphous material with an unusual capacity for extensive plastic shielding ahead of an open crack. This promotes a fracture toughness comparable to those of the toughest materials known. The rare combination of toughness and strength, or damage tolerance, extends beyond the benchmark ranges established by the toughest and strongest materials known." 

This study was published in Nature Materials.

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I can't believe it
By torpor on 1/11/2011 2:38:24 PM , Rating: 5
How can there be no aluminum in there?

RE: I can't believe it
By Smartless on 1/11/2011 2:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
Scottie obviously refined the process to use cheaper metals. Hmm better check to see if a few humpback whales can't be accounted for.

Wow if they do refine high tensile glass, that could revolutionize the construction industry. Though I wonder how it performs against materials like Plexiglass.

RE: I can't believe it
By quiksilvr on 1/11/2011 2:56:22 PM , Rating: 2
Weight is another issue as well. If this stuff is heavier than glass, it's already doomed in the automotive industry (although it might have hope in the airplane industry)

RE: I can't believe it
By DanNeely on 1/11/2011 3:11:05 PM , Rating: 2
The aviation industry is even more sensitive to weight than the general automotive industry; race cars are comparable.

RE: I can't believe it
By quiksilvr on 1/11/2011 3:17:31 PM , Rating: 2
Not for the cockpit. Metallic glass would be perfect for that. No more cracks from bird impacts.

RE: I can't believe it
By MGSsancho on 1/11/2011 5:05:35 PM , Rating: 2
the structure is that of a glass, the article says nothing about the new material allowing any light though

RE: I can't believe it
By Jeffk464 on 1/12/2011 7:44:14 PM , Rating: 2
thats what I was thinking, aka volcanic glass.

RE: I can't believe it
By nafhan on 1/11/2011 2:59:23 PM , Rating: 2
Glass isn't necessarily clear. Not sure about this specifically, though.

RE: I can't believe it
By Solandri on 1/11/2011 4:28:45 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, "glass" in this context is referring to the material's microstructure, not "something you can see through". Metals and alloys normally form microgranules of crystals all glommed together. Most of the material properties we associate with metals are a consequence of this. e.g. bending is microcrystals sliding against each other while staying glommed together. Work hardening is microcrystals sliding until two discontinuities match up, then latching onto each other to form larger crystals which are stronger but more prone to fracture.

"Glass" refers to a solid whose molecules haven't formed crystals (and are thus amorphous). They're usually optically transparent or translucent, but not always.

RE: I can't believe it
By Randomblame on 1/11/2011 3:00:33 PM , Rating: 5
*talking into his mouse* Hello computer

RE: I can't believe it
By therealnickdanger on 1/11/2011 4:15:01 PM , Rating: 5
The keyboard. How quaint.

RE: I can't believe it
By Astral Abyss on 1/11/2011 2:48:13 PM , Rating: 2
They're still trying to figure that out.

RE: I can't believe it
By strikeback03 on 1/11/2011 3:13:15 PM , Rating: 2
That would be this stuff:

The CEO of a company involved in making this gave a seminar on our campus a few years ago. He had videos of it under testing to be used as outer domes for sensors that have to see out of aircraft, the test projectiles shatter instead of the alon. Despite this he managed to go the whole seminar without a single transparent aluminum reference.

RE: I can't believe it
By Exodite on 1/11/2011 3:18:39 PM , Rating: 3
Strictly speaking we've had 'transparent aluminum' around for quite some time already.

Good old sapphire glass, aka the synthetic sapphire that you see in high-end wrist-watches and the like, is an aluminum oxide.

RE: I can't believe it
By walk2k on 1/11/2011 3:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
Is it me or does that guy look WAY too much like Scotty??

RE: I can't believe it
By magreen on 1/11/2011 3:39:12 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe he's Scotty's great-great-grandfather.

RE: I can't believe it
By Lazarus Dark on 1/12/2011 8:20:51 AM , Rating: 2
seriously, just picture gray/white hair and boom!: Scotty

iPhone 5!
By gevorg on 1/11/2011 3:07:07 PM , Rating: 5
iPhone 5 - tougher than steel!

RE: iPhone 5!
By Shadowmaster625 on 1/11/2011 3:46:10 PM , Rating: 2
Hey if they used this alloy, then at least they could justify their pricing.

RE: iPhone 5!
By fuzzlefizz on 1/11/2011 3:56:59 PM , Rating: 3
iPhone users will always find a way to crack their phones no matter how tough the material may be.

RE: iPhone 5!
By EricMartello on 1/14/2011 5:55:53 AM , Rating: 2
All that buttsex they're having...the iphones just can't take they need to stop putting them in their back pockets.

RE: iPhone 5!
By MozeeToby on 1/11/2011 4:24:54 PM , Rating: 3
The Gorilla Glass in my 2 year old Droid (the same glass used in most high end smart phones) is already more durable than the aluminum case that makes up the rest of the phone. I have several scratches on the battery cover and bezels, not a single mark on the screen itself.

RE: iPhone 5!
By NanoTube1 on 1/11/2011 5:05:05 PM , Rating: 2
True, but Gorilla glass is brittle - it breaks when it falls, just see the problems iPhone 4 users have especially with the glass on the back of the device. This new kind of glass will be perfect (at least for the back side if it is opaque).

I bet the Apple guys are already talking to them...

RE: iPhone 5!
By Jeffk464 on 1/12/2011 7:47:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well what dumb ass puts glass on the back of the case? :)

RE: iPhone 5!
By deputc26 on 1/11/2011 7:46:48 PM , Rating: 2
The D1's frame is steel not aluminum, that's why it's so heavy (and one of the reasons I haven't broke mine yet)

RE: iPhone 5!
By Solandri on 1/11/2011 4:41:06 PM , Rating: 5
In materials science, strength refers to how much force is needed to pull the material apart axially. Toughness refers to how much force is needed to be applied to a small area to cause a rupture in a perpendicular direction (e.g. pushing the material aside to punch through).

If this material is "stronger and tougher than steel", that means it can withstand greater stresses of this type than steel. However, steel (and metals in general) tends to be very resistant to fracture. A fracture travels in the metal only until it hits a discontinuity in the microcrystals which make it up, at which point the fracture stops. In materials like glass, the fracture hits no such discontinuity, and thus continues, "unzipping" the material right up to the edge.

In English, if you build a phone out of metal and drop it so that it exceeds the metal's strength, the metal pits and dents. If you build it out of a glass which is stronger than the metal, it will bounce and be (mostly) unharmed. But if you drop it so it exceeds the glass' strength, it will shatter. And except for the display, most people will prefer to have a dented and pitted phone which still works, instead of a shattered phone which does not work.

RE: iPhone 5!
By Fenixgoon on 1/12/2011 9:26:46 PM , Rating: 3
To refine your answer a little more - stress basically tests the strength of the atomic bonds.

The reason people measure axial strength is because most structures are only loaded in 1 direction. With stress being a tensor, you can apply up to 6 different stresses (but you can always simplify it to 3). We have a machine at work that can do biaxial loading.

Toughness is the material's resistance to incremental crack growth (where the crack presents an extremely large stress concentration).

You can have steel that is tough but not strong (316), strong but not tough (tool steel), or both strong and tough (aircraft grade steel).

Steels (and metals) in general possess both strength and toughness because of their ability to dissipate energy via plasticity (plastic deformation - permanent shape change). Grain boundaries are crystal discontinuities yes, but by that logic intergranular fracture (which is a brittle mode in most cases) should give very high toughness, but it doesn't. Plasticity is the reason for high toughness in metals (often times discontinuities - such as inclusions - raise the stress locally and act as crack initiation sites)

Plasticity in glasses and ceramics is extremely limited in most cases (some people have observed plasticity when the strain rate is very high). Glasses and ceramics can be very strong - usually in compression, because cracks under compression grow stably (tensile stresses will open a crack whereas compressive ones close it). This is why when you pull a ceramic in tension, you get a very low strength value, but compression will give something much higher (tension opens cracks, compression closes them)

All the "glass" in "metallic glass" means is that the solidification rate was fast enough (~10^6 C/s) that no crystalline structure was able to form. If this glass has a toughness closer to that of a typical metal, then the hypothetical iPhone would still dent - not shatter.

For reference, typical toughness values for ceramics are generally < 20, while steels can range anywhere from ceramic-like (tool steels) to above 200 for low-strength/high-toughness steels

RE: iPhone 5!
By dani31 on 1/11/2011 4:46:41 PM , Rating: 1
Of course, this glass is opaque, but the iphone users have already learnt where the icons are. New users WILL learn.

RE: iPhone 5!
By Jeffk464 on 1/12/2011 7:49:01 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, that's about the funniest thing Ive read on here.

RE: iPhone 5!
By protosv on 1/12/2011 12:22:28 PM , Rating: 2
Wow I'm surprised it took this long for someone to mention the iPhone.

By chrnochime on 1/11/2011 2:48:04 PM , Rating: 3
Unless those metals used (Germanium/Palladium) are cheap and plentiful...and I don't think Palladium is, this doesn't seem like an economical alternative to current glass used in buildings/cars.

RE: Cost?
By mead drinker on 1/11/2011 4:01:45 PM , Rating: 2
Palladium is about as expensive as 14K gold.

RE: Cost?
By bupkus on 1/11/2011 4:52:02 PM , Rating: 2
First: research
Next: proof of concept (application)
Last: manufacture for profit (refinement including alternate/cheaper materials)

RE: Cost?
By sorry dog on 1/12/2011 9:33:44 AM , Rating: 4
...Please act now to preserve your order of the American Buffalo Paladium Dollar. The US mint only produced 10,000 of this rare coin, so call today to reserve yours. Call Monex today to get this limited time offer to buy a $50 coin for $1000.

RE: Cost?
By melgross on 1/11/2011 5:08:45 PM , Rating: 2
I was looking to see if someone noticed that.

By the way, Liquid metal is the same as this. This is just another variation of that, and we know Apple has licensed that for all consumer product use, and have two patents on it themselves already.

So, I'm wondering just what makes this stuff so different. It seems to be just another alloy of the same thing.

No missing whales?
By Icopoli on 1/11/2011 2:44:17 PM , Rating: 2
Or lower than normal nuclear reactor outputs as of late?

RE: No missing whales?
By Raraniel on 1/11/2011 3:14:33 PM , Rating: 4
Nu-cwe-er Wessels!

RE: No missing whales?
By Ytsejamer1 on 1/11/2011 3:21:45 PM , Rating: 2
Of course he's a russki, but he's a retard or something!!!

Classic...I of course thought of the picture of Scotty and the computer before even reading the article. Gene Roddenberry rules.

RE: No missing whales?
By TSS on 1/11/2011 5:38:21 PM , Rating: 2
Nucular, it's pronounced "Nucular".

RE: No missing whales?
By Pneumothorax on 1/11/2011 5:14:08 PM , Rating: 2
No, but ex-XO Capt Owen Honors might know, or you can ask SWO-Boy

By IcePickFreak on 1/11/2011 4:05:27 PM , Rating: 2
A moment in silence for the old saying "Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

RE: R.I.P.
By GeekWithFire on 1/11/2011 5:43:34 PM , Rating: 3
No, because tomorrow's headline will read "New Metallic Rock is Strongest, Toughest Material Available"

RE: R.I.P.
By blueeyesm on 1/14/2011 12:04:43 PM , Rating: 2

'People in glass houses sink sh-sh-ships.'


By vtohthree on 1/11/2011 3:14:01 PM , Rating: 2
This would make a great alternative to gorilla glass if it's as tough as they say it is. Perhaps this material could be in our future smartphones and tablets using capacitative touch.

technical writers, sigh
By Howard on 1/11/2011 9:34:14 PM , Rating: 2
quench does not mean cool, it means cool at a very high rate of speed, and for amorphous materials it is generally at extreme rates

and this: "When it comes time to quench the liquid metals, it doesn't know which crystal structure to form, so it automatically forms an amorphous structure."

Seriously? "it doesn't know"?

It doesn't know
By rs2 on 1/12/2011 7:40:55 AM , Rating: 2
When it comes time to quench the liquid metals, it doesn't know which crystal structure to form, so it automatically forms an amorphous structure.

So liquid metals have attained sentience now? That must be the scientific find of the century. How much longer before the T-1000 is a reality?

Or perhaps is it that quenching the liquid metal cools it so quickly that its atoms are simply frozen in an amorphous configuration because there is no time for them to align in any sort of crystalline structure?

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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