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Designing metallic glass matrix composites with high toughness and tensile ductility


The selection and design of modern high-performance structural engineering materials is driven by optimizing combinations of mechanical properties such as strength, ductility, toughness, elasticity and requirements for predictable and graceful (non-catastrophic) failure in service1. Highly processable bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) are a new class of engineering materials and have attracted significant technological interest2,3,4,5,6. Although many BMGs exhibit high strength and show substantial fracture toughness, they lack ductility and fail in an apparently brittle manner in unconstrained loading geometries7. For instance, some BMGs exhibit significant plastic deformation in compression or bending tests, but all exhibit negligible plasticity (<0.5% strain) in uniaxial tension. To overcome brittle failure in tension, BMG–matrix composites have been introduced8,9. The inhomogeneous microstructure with isolated dendrites in a BMG matrix stabilizes the glass against the catastrophic failure associated with unlimited extension of a shear band and results in enhanced global plasticity and more graceful failure. Tensile strengths of 1 GPa, tensile ductility of 2–3 per cent9, and an enhanced mode I fracture toughness of K1C ≈ 40 MPa m1/2 were reported8,9. Building on this approach, we have developed ‘designed composites’ by matching fundamental mechanical and microstructural length scales. Here, we report titanium–zirconium-based BMG composites with room-temperature tensile ductility exceeding 10 per cent, yield strengths of 1.2–1.5 GPa, K1C up to 170 MPa m1/2, and fracture energies for crack propagation as high as G1C ≈ 340 kJ m-2. The K1C and G1C values equal or surpass those achievable in the toughest titanium or steel alloys, placing BMG composites among the toughest known materials.

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Figure 1: High-resolution TEM images from the alloy DH1.
Figure 2: Enhanced room-temperature tensile ductility of DH1, DH2 and DH3.
Figure 3: High fracture toughness obtained by matching of key fundamental mechanical and microstructural length scales.
Figure 4: Piercing the envelope of toughness for common engineering materials.


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We acknowledge the Office of Naval Research for partial support of this work. D.C.H. acknowledges financial support from the Department of Defense through the NDSEG fellowship programme. This work benefited from the use of the Caltech Kavli Nanoscience Institute and the Mat. Sci. TEM facilities supported by the MRSEC Program of the National Science Foundation. We thank C. Garland for assistance with the TEM work. We also thank S. Y. Lee, K. S. Vecchio, C. P. Kim and C. E. Hofmann for their comments and advice.

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Correspondence to Douglas C. Hofmann.

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Supplementary Figures

This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-10 with Legends supporting the claims reported in the manuscript. The Supplementary Figures include a schematic illustration of the main findings, SEM micrographs, DSC scans, optical images, XRD scans, and shear modulus plots. (PDF 1230 kb)

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Hofmann, D., Suh, JY., Wiest, A. et al. Designing metallic glass matrix composites with high toughness and tensile ductility. Nature 451, 1085–1089 (2008).

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