Normally, when a piece of metal - such as a paperclip - is bent, the change in shape becomes permanent. But, when heat is added to bent metal films having the right microstructure, the researchers found, the films return to their original shapes. The higher the temperature, the sooner the metal films revert.
"It's as though the metal has a memory of where it came from," said Taher A. Saif, a professor of mechanical science and engineering at Illinois, and senior author of a paper that describes the findings in the March 30 issue of the journal Science.
In the study, Saif and graduate students Jagannathan Rajagopalan and Jong H. Han explored aluminum films and gold films. The aluminum films were 200 nanometers thick, 50-60 microns wide and 300-360 microns long. The gold films were 200 nanometers thick, 12-20 microns wide and 185 microns long. The average grain size in the aluminum films was 65 nanometers; in the gold films, 50 nanometers.
"We found that the type of metal doesn't matter, said Saif, who also is a Willett Faculty Scholar and a researcher at the university's Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. "What matters is the size of the grains in the metal's crystalline microstructure, and a distribution in the size."
Grain sizes are typically one-third to one-half the thickness of a metal film. Raising the temperature by about 50 degrees Celsius causes the grains to grow larger.
If the grains are uniformly too small, the metal will be brittle and break while being bent. If the grains are uniformly too large, the metal will bend, but then stay in that position. To return to the initial shape, what's needed is a balance between brittleness and malleability.
That balance can be achieved through a combination of small and large grains, the researchers report.
Variations in the microstructure lead to plastic deformation in the larger grains and elastic accommodations in the smaller grains, Saif said. The bigger grains bend, but push and pull on the smaller grains, which become elastically deformed like a spring. If the metal is then left alone, the smaller grains will release this energy and force the bigger grains back to their original shapes over time. This local release of energy can be speeded up by applying heat.
Controlling the crystalline microstructure of thin films also could reduce energy loss in oscillators and resonators used in electronic circuits, Saif said. Oscillators and resonators are found in products ranging from air bag sensors and camcorders to digital projectors and global positioning systems.
"If the grains that constitute the metal films in these devices are between 50 and 100 nanometers, they can be very lossy," Saif said. "However, if we decrease the grain size, we can reduce much of the energy loss."
The work was funded by the National Science Foundation.
James E. Kloeppel | University of Illinois
NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space
29.05.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier
29.05.2017 | University of Strathclyde
The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.
The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences
29.05.2017 | Life Sciences
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy