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Surface dislocation nucleation: Strength is but skin deep at the nanoscale, Penn engineers discover
Date:3/3/2008

PHILADELPHIA - For centuries, engineers have bent and torn metals to test their strength and ductility. Now, materials scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science are studying the same metals but at nanoscale sizes in the form of wires a thousand times thinner than a human hair. This work has enable Penn engineers to construct a theoretical model to predict the strength of metals at the nanoscale. Using this model, they have found that, while metals tend to be stronger at nanoscale volumes, their strengths saturate at around 10-50 nanometers diameter, at which point they also become more sensitive to temperature and strain rate. Such prediction of different strength regimes of nano-solids is important for future application and engineering design of nanotechnology.

Such small-volume materials with relatively large surface areas are now routinely employed in microchips and nanoscience and technology, and their mechanical properties can differ vastly from their macroscale counterparts. Typically, smaller is stronger. A gold wire 200 nanometers in diameter can be 50 times stronger per area than centimeter-sized single-crystal gold. Engineers investigated the "smaller is stronger" trend.

Ju Li, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Penn, and his collaborators at the Georgia Institute of Technology have combined transition state theory, explicit atomistic energy landscape calculation and computer simulation to establish a theoretical framework to predict the strengths of small-volume materials. Unlike previous models, their prediction can be directly compared with experiments performed at realistic temperature and loading rates. This research appeared as a cover article in Volume 100 of Physical Review Letters.

Their study demonstrated that the free, exterior surface of nanosized materials can be fertile breeding grounds of dislocations at high stre
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Contact: Jordan Reese
jreese@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

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Surface dislocation nucleation: Strength is but skin deep at the nanoscale, Penn engineers discover
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