UNT researchers make discovery that could revolutionize the future of materials science engineering
Researchers in UNT's College of Engineering’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering have found a way to create an ultralight, highly heat-resistant, magnesium-based material by engineering bonds at an atomic level. Their research has been published in the “Nature Communications” journal. Their work took place in UNT’s Materials Research Facility, which combines the high-quality and sophisticated characterization and processing instruments from UNT’s Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) and the Nanofabrication Cleanroom.
“We’ve been metallurgists for some time and deal with metals, but the fact that we can peer into atoms and we are able to connect the bonding between atoms and the material properties for practical use is amazing,” says Deep Choudhuri, research assistant professor. “To be able to do that, it says to us, ‘what’s going to happen 50 or 60 years down the line based on this?’ We are breaking new frontiers.”
Choudhuri, together with University Distinguished Research Professor Raj Banerjee, Associate Professor Srinivasan Srivilliputhur and David Jaeger, senior research scientist in UNT’s Materials Research Facility, was able to use this discovery to create a magnesium alloy that can withstand usage at higher temperatures – such as those experienced in aircrafts and automotive engines.
“Magnesium is great, but its melting temperature is only 650 degrees Celsius, making it difficult to use at high temperatures since it then softens like candle wax,” Banerjee says. “This discovery can have a huge impact in terms of light weighting future aircraft and making them, as well as other forms of transportation, more fuel efficient. Right now, it’s expensive, but down the line when its production becomes more cost-effective, this new alloy could work in any moving part.”
The researchers hope to use the principle they discovered to design other materials.
“How much of each element do you add, what proportion do you add, all of those questions need to be asked,” Srivilliputhur says. “The moment you create this metal cocktail – we call them alloys – there are trillions and trillions of possible combinations.”
The researchers say it’s an honor to have their research featured in a scientific journal.
“To publish something on a classical metallurgy problem in this journal means we must be treading on new ground,” Srivilliputhur says. “So, when we look at it from that point of view, this is a problem that thousands of materials scientists have looked at, and we were still able to dig deeper and find a new gem. It’s exciting.”