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Researchers develop new processes to manufacture high-strength ultra-light materials

Apr 01 , 2021

Lightweight materials used in industries such as airplanes and automobiles need to be as light and strong as possible. According to foreign media reports, the research team of Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG) and Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) has developed a new process of ultra-light material nano-metal rods, which can form a nested network at different levels , And provide ultra-high strength.


The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 and was the tallest building in the world at that time. It cleverly arranges iron beams of different sizes and has super stability. The term "layered" refers to an engineering method of an open array of girder supported by trabeculae. For a long time, materials science researchers have been trying to apply this method to the internal microstructure of materials, such as using 3-D printers to replicate micron-scale engineering truss structures. However, a new generation of super lightweight construction materials has not yet been found. The co-author of the paper and Professor Jörg Weißmüller of the HZG Institute of Material Mechanics said: “One of the reasons is that the 3D printer can only print about 10,000 beams at most, and it takes several hours, which is not suitable for practical applications.”


But the team is still working hard: if the beam intensity can be increased by reducing the diameter of the speed of light to a few nanometers, it can lay the foundation for the manufacture of new lightweight and strong materials. However, this material usually contains trillions of beams, far beyond the capabilities of all current printers.


First, the team immersed the alloy (93% silver + 7% gold) in dilute sulfuric acid. After dissolving half of the silver, the remaining materials rearrange themselves to form a precise network of nano-level beams. After that, the researchers heat-treated the material at a high temperature of several hundred degrees. Shi explained: "This method can coarsen the network to a beam size of 150 nanometers while maintaining the original architecture."


Finally, the researchers used acid to remove the remaining silver, leaving only a gold beam with an average aperture of 15 nanometers. The result showed two layered materials with different beam sizes, which is completely different from the Eiffel Tower. Thanks to its open network structure, 80% to 90% of this new material is air, and its density is only 10% to 20% of solid metal.


Subsequently, the research team tested the mechanical properties of millimeter-scale samples. Jörg Weißmüller said: “Given the low density of this material, its key mechanical parameters (such as strength and elastic modulus) are relatively very high. Although most of the weight has been removed, this material is still stronger than the most advanced materials. This is the first time that the layered structure is not only suitable for macro-engineering truss structures such as the Eiffel Tower, but also for lightweight network materials."


This new material is not yet suitable for lightweight structures, because gold is too precious and soft. But the new HZG material design method can be applied to other technology-related metals, such as aluminum, magnesium or titanium. But researchers still face this problem, that is, they can only make small millimeter-level samples. Weißmüller said: "At present, our process can be used to manufacture metal wires or even entire metal sheets. In the future, this material will be more used in real scenes, such as the automotive field, to make cars lighter and more energy-efficient."

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