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Hard or soft: At the touch of a button
Date:6/6/2011

This world-first has its origins in Hamburg. Jrg Weimller, a materials scientist at both the Technical University of Hamburg and the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht, has carried out research on this groundbreaking development, working in cooperation with colleagues from the Institute for Metal Research in Shenyang, China.

The 51-year-old researcher from the Saarland referred to his fundamental research, which opens the door to a multitude of diverse applications, as "a breakthrough in the material sciences". The new metallic high-performance material is described by Prof. Dr. Jrg Weimller and the Chinese research scientist Hai-Jun Jin in the latest issue of the renowned scientific journal "Science" (DOI: 10.1126/science.1202190). Their research findings could, for example, make future intelligent materials with the ability of self healing, smoothing out flaws autonomously.

The firmness of a boiled egg can be adjusted at will through the cooking time. Some decisions are, however, irrevocable a hard-boiled egg can never be reconverted into a soft-boiled one. There would be less annoyance at the breakfast table if we could simply switch back and forth between the different degrees of firmness of the egg.

Similar issues arise in the making of structural materials such as metals and alloys. The materials properties are set once and for all during production. This forces engineers to make compromises in the selection of the mechanical properties of a material. Greater strength is inevitably accompanied by increased brittleness and a reduction of the damage tolerance.

Professor Weimller, head of the Institute of Materials Physics and Technology at the Technical University of Hamburg and also of the department for Hybrid Material Systems at the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht, stated: "This is a point where significant progress is being made. For the first time we have succeeded in producing a material which, while in service, can switch back
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Contact: Prof. Dr. Joerg Weissmueller
weissmueller@tu-harburg.de
49-404-287-83035
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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