Scientists at Rice University are smashing metallic micro-cubes to make them ultrastrong and tough by rearranging their nanostructures upon impact. The Rice team reported in Science this week that firing a tiny, nearly perfect cube of silver onto a hard target turns its single-crystal microstructure into a gradient-nano-grained (GNG) structure.
The purpose of the experiment was to learn how materials deform under overwhelming stress, as might be experienced by a bulletproof vest or a spacecraft that encounters micrometeorites. The researchers believe creating a gradient nanostructure in materials by way of deformation will make them more ductile and therefore less likely to fail catastrophically when subsequently stressed.
ltimately, they want to develop nano-grained metals that are tougher and stronger than anything available today.