Letter | Published:

Processing and properties of magnesium containing a dense uniform dispersion of nanoparticles

Nature volume 528, pages 539543 (24 December 2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Magnesium is a light metal, with a density two-thirds that of aluminium, is abundant on Earth and is biocompatible; it thus has the potential to improve energy efficiency and system performance in aerospace, automobile, defence, mobile electronics and biomedical applications1,2,3,4,5. However, conventional synthesis and processing methods (alloying and thermomechanical processing) have reached certain limits in further improving the properties of magnesium and other metals6. Ceramic particles have been introduced into metal matrices to improve the strength of the metals7, but unfortunately, ceramic microparticles severely degrade the plasticity and machinability of metals7, and nanoparticles, although they have the potential to improve strength while maintaining or even improving the plasticity of metals8,9, are difficult to disperse uniformly in metal matrices10,11,12,13,14. Here we show that a dense uniform dispersion of silicon carbide nanoparticles (14 per cent by volume) in magnesium can be achieved through a nanoparticle self-stabilization mechanism in molten metal. An enhancement of strength, stiffness, plasticity and high-temperature stability is simultaneously achieved, delivering a higher specific yield strength and higher specific modulus than almost all structural metals.

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Acknowledgements

This work is supported in part by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). We thank Y.-W. Chang, N. Bodzin and T. McLouth at the University of California, Los Angeles, for their help with FIB experiments, micropillar testing and elastic modulus measurements. We also thank C. Cao at the University of California, Los Angeles for his help with measuring the grain size of the as-solidified Mg2Zn samples.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Scifacturing Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA

    • Lian-Yi Chen
    •  & Xiao-Chun Li
  2. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA

    • Lian-Yi Chen
    • , Jia-Quan Xu
    • , Marta Pozuelo
    • , Jenn-Ming Yang
    •  & Xiao-Chun Li
  3. Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Missouri 65409, USA

    • Lian-Yi Chen
  4. Department of Mechanical Engineering, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina 29634, USA

    • Hongseok Choi
  5. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, North Carolina State University, North Carolina 27695, USA

    • Xiaolong Ma
  6. Hysitron Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55344, USA

    • Sanjit Bhowmick
  7. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA

    • Suveen Mathaudhu

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Contributions

X.-C.L. and L.-Y.C. conceived the idea and designed the experiments. L.-Y.C. and H.C. fabricated the nanocomposites. X.-C.L. and J.-Q.X. developed the theoretical model for nanoparticle dispersion. X.M. conducted the high-pressure torsion experiment. L.-Y.C. and M.P. characterized the properties and microstructures. S.B. conducted micropillar compression testing at high temperature. L.-Y.C., X.-C.L., J.-Q.X., M.P. and S.M. analysed the data. L.-Y.C., X.-C.L., M.P. and S.M. wrote the paper. J.-M.Y. supervised M.P. for TEM characterization. S.M. supervised X.M. for the high-pressure torsion experiment. X.-C.L. supervised the whole work.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xiao-Chun Li.

Extended data

Supplementary information

Videos

  1. 1.

    SEM video showing deformation behavior of Mg2Zn sample during micro-compression test.

    After yielding, Mg2Zn sample exhibits sudden slips, which results in repeated loading-unloading cycles in stress-strain curve.

  2. 2.

    SEM video showing deformation behaviour of Mg2Zn (14 vol% SiC) sample during micro-compression test.

    After yielding, Mg2Zn (14 vol% SiC) sample deforms uniformly without sudden slips, which results in a smooth stress-strain curve.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature16445

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