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Sonochemical synthesis of amorphous iron


AMORPHOUS metallic alloys ('metallic glasses') lack long-range crystalline order and have unique electronic, magnetic and corrosion-resistant properties1–3. Their applications include use in power-transformer cores, magnetic storage media, cryothermometry and corrosion-resistant coatings. The production of metallic glasses is made difficult, however, by the extremely rapid cooling from the melt that is necessary to prevent crystallization. Cooling rates of about 105 to 107 K s−1 are generally required; for comparison, plunging red-hot steel into water produces cooling rates of only about 2,500 K s−1. Metallic glasses can be formed by splattering molten metal on a cold surface using techniques such as gun, roller or splat quenching4,5. Acoustic cavitation is known to induce extreme local heating in otherwise cold liquids, and to provide very rapid cooling rates6–11. Here we describe the synthesis of metallic-glass powders using the microscopically extreme (yet macroscopically mild) conditions induced by high-intensity ultrasound. The sonolysis of iron pentacarbonyl, a volatile organometallic compound, produces nearly pure amorphous iron. This amorphous iron powder is a highly active catalyst for the Fischer–Tropsch hydrogenation of carbon monoxide and for hydrogenolysis and dehydrogenation of saturated hydrocarbons.

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Suslick, K., Choe, SB., Cichowlas, A. et al. Sonochemical synthesis of amorphous iron. Nature 353, 414–416 (1991).

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