Scientists discover a new way to make “glassy” steel.

How do you make steel stronger? By making it more like glass:

Recipe unearthed for ‘glassy’ metal: Sturdier steel forged using rare element.

In normal metals, the atoms are packed together in an orderly, “crystalline” manner, like oranges on a fruit stall. But in amorphous solids, like glass, the atoms are disorderly; they resemble atoms in a liquid, except that they are more or less frozen in place.

Metals with this jumbled atomic structure are typically harder and stronger than their crystalline counterparts, so they are very attractive to engineers. For example, these amorphous alloys could be used to build aeroplanes that are as strong as those made from regular metals, but that use less material, making them much lighter.

The problem is that amorphous metal alloys are generally very expensive. Those on the market are composed mostly of costly zirconium or palladium. An amorphous version of steel, based on iron, would reduce the price considerably.

“All the elements we use in our alloys are cheap,” Lu says. He estimates that his glassy steel could reduce the price tag of amorphous metals from $220 a kilogram to less than $33 a kilogram.

Possible uses for this new steel could range from tougher medical implants to lighter aircraft to better sporting equipment. As far as I know, though, you can’t see through it so visions of that famous scene in Star Trek IV where Scotty hands over the forumla for transparent aluminum will have to wait.

7 thoughts on “Scientists discover a new way to make “glassy” steel.

  1. One way of making amporphus metals
    is to rapidly cool them from the molten state.
    A jet of metal sprayed onto a rapidly rotating drum (much like a grindstone wheel)
    rates of cooling of millions of degrees per second are possible,
    the result being an amoorphus metal “tape” a few centimetres wide.

    Also useful for making bbaby-jesus nativities for christmas.

  2. Publicus, something about the rhythm of your entry just made me think of poetry, and I couldn’t resist:

    one way of making amporphus metals
    is to rapidly cool them from the molten state.
    a jet of metal sprayed onto a rapidly rotating drum
    results in an amorphus metal tape

    the secret is the very rapid cooling rate
    of several millions of degrees per second
    you get metals very difficult to break,
    while still considerably hardened

    (with apologies to e.e. cummings)

  3. Actually, unless I’m very much mistaken, there IS a transparent aluminum—has been for at least 10 years.

    I found the following link, for transparent Aluminia…which I assume is legit:
    Transparent Aluminum

  4. JethricOne – Alumina has often been confused as a breakthrough of sorts in see-through Aluminum but they are two entirely different things.  The breakthrough that was noted by the Germans was in the refining process in which they were able to produce an extremely high grade Alumina polycrystalline.

    Still looks like some fun stuff to play around with though.

  5. One applications of steel glass would most likely be armor plate. The crystaline structure of most steel is its downfall. When struck by an object moving at high speeds the ensuing shockwave shatters the structure and the steel fails, but glass steel would most likely be able to absorb and reduce the same shock without failure.

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