New metal material discovery could strengthen military vehicles

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. A U.S. Army project discovery upends previous notions about how metals deform and could help guide the creation of stronger, more durable materials for military vehicles.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, funded by the Army Research Office, discovered a new mechanism for bending, published in Nature Communications, that might allow engineers to strengthen a material without running the risk of fractures.

Currently, engineers manipulate the strength of a metal through techniques such as cold working or annealing, which exert their effects through small structural irregularities called dislocations. Strengthening techniques typically restrict the motion of dislocations.

Researchers have since discovered samarium cobalt, known as an intermetallic, that bends easily, even though its dislocations were locked in place. According to the research, bending samarium cobalt caused narrow bands to form inside the crystal lattice, where molecules assumed a freeform configuration instead of the regular, grid-like structure in the rest of the metal, which allowed it to bend.

Researchers claim that this creates many new opportunities for processing and design.