Superior Metals Through Irregularities Among Nanotwins

A new discovery paves a path to the creation of superior metals.
Kashyap Vyas

A team of researchers from Brown University and the Institute of Metals Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences has found that the strength of metals can be increased significantly by varying the nanoscale boundaries within the metal’s atomic structure. The research opens up new possibilities in the development of high-performance materials.

What actually is a Nanotwin?

Nanotwins in metallurgy may be defined as the minute linear boundaries that border the atomic lattice of the metals that have similar crystalline structures on either surface. The study of nanotwins revealed that these nanotwins in metals can aid in stabilizing the flaws that arise due to continuous strain at the atomic level.

The nanotwins thus restrict the accumulation of fatigue-associated defects in the metal.

The research paper published in the Science journal explains how alteration in the spacing between the two identical twin boundaries can generate remarkable advancements in the metal, thus, amplifying the strength and durability of the metal. This new discovery opposes the notion of regular spacing throughout the entire length of the metal and shows that irregularities can, in fact, boost the firmness of the metal atoms.

Professor Huajian Gao, the co-head of the research work at the Brown School of Engineering quoted that this fresh invention will open up gates for the new manufacturing technology that will yield materials with increased resilience and durability.

“This work deals with what’s known as a gradient material, meaning a material in which there’s some gradual variation in its internal makeup,” Gao said. “Gradient materials are a hot research area because they often have desirable properties compared to homogeneous materials. In this case, we wanted to see if a gradient in nanotwin spacing produced new properties.”

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The experiment and its observations

The research team led by Professor Gao and his colleagues have already demonstrated that nanotwins in the metals can heighten the potential of the material. For instance, Nanotwins Copper when compared with normal standard copper exhibited significantly higher strength with an unexceptionally increased resilience to fatigue.

Nanoscale Space Within the Metal Lattice Structure
Source: Gao Lab/Brown University

The study, however, is only the beginning of the research to examine the consequences of irregular nanotwin spacing.

In the experiment, the team produced four different components, with distinct nanotwin spacing. The samples constituted different proportions of four components that were organized in different orders across the width of the sample.

The strength of these samples was examined based on each composite sample and also on the basis of the strength of the components. The test revealed that all composites were much more in strength than the combined average of the four components.


Some other tests further unveiled the fact that the composites had greater rates of work hardening.

To further understand the working of nanotwins, computer simulations were used which revealed that the density of dislocations is much more in the gradient copper as compared to the standard metal.

The research team is hopeful to find out the same nanotwin modifications in other elements to produce an upgraded version of the metals.

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