Friday, January 21, 2011

Science Fiction Becoming Reality

One of the great materials concocted in the Star Trek lore is transparent aluminum. It was a central feature to the plot of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, since the crew of the Enterprise needed something that was lightweight and able to be able to withstand tremendous pressures. Scotty "invented" transparent aluminum, using his knowledge of the future.

Now, scientists have developed a super-strong glass that mimics many of the properties of that fictional transparent aluminum.
That's why researchers have created a new type of glass that is stronger and tougher than steel.

In fact, this new type of damage-tolerant glass has actually demonstrated a durability greater than any known material.

The new metallic glass is a microalloy that features palladium, a metal with a high "bulk-to-shear" stiffness ratio that counteracts the intrinsic brittleness of glassy materials.

An initially sharp impact does not develop into a fully opened crack. (Image courtesy Robert Ritchie and Marios Demetriou)Those findings come from experiments conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology.

Robert Richie is the materials scientist who led the Berkely contribution to the research. In a press release, he says the new glass is stronger than steel because "that glass undergoes extensive plasticity in response to stress, allowing it to bend rather than crack."
For now, the sample sizes are quite small, but the scientists figure to enlarge the size and work on making their discoveries marketable.

No comments: