ASU, ARL researches tout superhero-like strength with new alloys

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. Arizona State University (ASU) and U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) researchers teamed up to designed a super strong alloy of copper and tantalum that can withstand extreme impact and temperature.

Officials tout that it's likely the closest material on earth to vibranium, a rare fictitious metallic substance found in Marvel's Wakanda and used in Captain America's shield. Applications for this material can include ballistic impact or military/personnel protection, according to Dr. Kristopher Darling, a materials scientist with ARL's Lightweight and Specialty Metals Branch. Other applications that will also benefit the use of these alloys are spacecraft and for deep-space exploration.

Darling said that even beyond the Army, "anywhere there's high strength and good electrical conductivity is required, these alloys can be thought of as a model system who's structure can be passed on to other alternative material systems. Materials based on iron or aluminum for instance could be used for protection and lethality applications."

The ARL team includes Darling, Drs. Cyril Williams and B. Chad Hornbuckle. ASU's team includes Professor Kiran Solanki, Professor Pedro Peralta and six doctoral students in materials science and mechanical engineering on the recently published paper on the alloy in Nature Communications: "Anomalous mechanical behavior of nanocrystalline binary alloys under extreme conditions."

The alloy can withstand high rates of impact and temperatures in excess of 80 percent of their melting point, which is higher than 1,073 kelvin or greater than 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit), with very little change in its microstructure, the Army reports.