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
Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume
15.01.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences
The universe up close
15.01.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
16.01.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering