Researchers from the University of Tokyo and
Toyota Central Research and Development Laboratories in Japan have found
a group of metal alloys that are unusually strong and flexible.
The alloys, various mixtures of titanium, zirconium, niobium and
tantalum, could be used in medical equipment, sporting goods, precision
parts for outer space, and eventually automobile parts, according to the
The flexibility and strength of the alloys increase as the material
Key to the useful properties are a balance of three atomic properties:
the position and energy level of electrons, and the bonds between atoms.
The researchers found they could boost the flexibility and strength of the
alloys by cold-working the materials to rearrange oxygen atoms in the mix.
The process made the microstructure of the material into a marble-like structure
of fine filaments. This nanoscale bending is responsible for the alloys'
The researchers are aiming to commercialize the material for use
in frames for glasses and precision screws. The materials are especially
appropriate for making super lightweight springs and precision instruments
for rugged environments like space, according to the researchers.
The work appeared in the April 18, 2003 issue of Science.
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