Scientists have discovered the Most Wear-Resistant Metal Alloy

Scientists have discovered the Most Wear-Resistant Metal Alloy

The amalgamation of a traditional combination of metals with the latest engineering produces a gem of a material.

Science has already provided us with remarkable solutions in all fields of life yet scientists seem more charged than ever, these days, to make new inroads. The researchers of the Sandia National Laboratories, Nic Argibay and Michael Chandross, have claimed to have engineered the most wear-resistant metallic alloy of the world. They initially used computer simulation to predict the wear resistance of their Platinum-Gold alloy which was followed by an ‘Environmental Tribometer’ to practically demonstrate the strength of this new material.

Traditionally, metals are considered strong materials which offer quite a lot of resistance. Having said that, friction has a corroding impact on them and continuous rubbing can wear them down. A typical example that can be quoted in this regard is that of an engine. That’s the reason why additives are added to motor oils to provide a protective layer to the engine. Similarly, we use gold or other expensive metal alloys as outer layers in the electronics because of the continuous metal-to-metal contacts. These precious materials are used to enhance the lifespan of the appliances as they corrode at a slower rate in comparison to some cheaper metals.

According to the researching team, this revolutionary alloy is 100 times more durable than the high-strength steel. This property makes it the first combination of metals, which joins Sapphire and Diamond, to become one of the most wear-resistant materials of nature. Argibay, who is a Materials Scientist, talked about the efficiency of this material in the following words:

We showed there’s a fundamental change you can make to some alloys that will impart this tremendous increase in performance over a broad range of real, practical metals.”

The team showed the world that only a single layer of atoms is lost when hypothetical tires made from this alloy are skidded for a mile. Likewise, this material can save the electronics industry more than $100 million every year through its ultra-durable coating. Argibay mentioned that it can be used for developing products of all sizes, ranging from cell phones to aerospace systems, and all of them will offer greater efficiency than the current products. Chris Nordquist, an Engineer from Sandia who was not a part of the research, acknowledged the importance of this discovery by saying,

These wear-resistant materials could potentially provide reliability benefits for a range of devices we have explored. The opportunities for integration and improvement would be device-specific, but this material would provide another tool for addressing current reliability limitations of metal microelectronic components.”

The combination (90% Platinum and 10% Gold) used by the researching team is not new at all but the thing which made all the difference is the ‘Engineering’. According to conventional knowledge, the ability of a metal to withstand friction is dependent on its hardness. Contrary to that, the latest theory claims that the wear resistance of a metal is determined by its reaction to heat. The experts decided to experimentally prove this idea. They selected fixed proportions of some metals and a fabrication process that helped them achieve amazing results. John Curry, the First Author of the paper who is a Postdoctoral Appointee at Sandia, explained their work to the world and said,

Many traditional alloys were developed to increase the strength of a material by reducing grain size. Even still, in the presence of extreme stresses and temperatures, many alloys will coarsen or soften, especially under fatigue. We saw that with our platinum-gold alloy the mechanical and thermal stability is excellent, and we did not see much change to the microstructure over immensely long periods of cyclic stress during sliding.”

The idea that this platinum-gold alloy may make its own lubricant adds to the advantages of this discovery. One day during their experiments, the researching team noticed that an unexpected black film was forming on top of the alloy. They were quick to identify this diamond-like-carbon which is one of the world’s best human-made coatings. It was simply amazing because this coating requires special conditions to manufacture. Curry described the importance of this event in the following words:

We believe the stability and inherent resistance to wear allows carbon-containing molecules from the environment to stick and degrade during sliding to ultimately form diamond-like carbon. The industry has other methods of doing this, but they typically involve vacuum chambers with high-temperature plasmas of carbon species. It can get very expensive.”

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