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Fabrication and deformation of three-dimensional hollow ceramic nanostructures


Creating lightweight, mechanically robust materials has long been an engineering pursuit. Many siliceous skeleton species—such as diatoms, sea sponges and radiolarians—have remarkably high strengths when compared with man-made materials of the same composition, yet are able to remain lightweight and porous1,2,3,4,5,6,7. It has been suggested that these properties arise from the hierarchical arrangement of different structural elements at their relevant length scales8,9. Here, we report the fabrication of hollow ceramic scaffolds that mimic the length scales and hierarchy of biological materials. The constituent solids attain tensile strengths of 1.75 GPa without failure even after multiple deformation cycles, as revealed by in situ nanomechanical experiments and finite-element analysis. We discuss the high strength and lack of failure in terms of stress concentrators at surface imperfections and of local stresses within the microstructural landscape. Our findings suggest that the hierarchical design principles offered by hard biological organisms can be applied to create damage-tolerant lightweight engineering materials.

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Figure 1: Skeletal natural biological materials versus TiN nanolattices.
Figure 2: Compression experiments on a single unit cell.
Figure 3: Finite-element analysis of the top half of a unit cell.
Figure 4


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The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Dow-Resnick Innovation Fund at Caltech, DARPA’s Materials with Controlled Microstructure and Architecture program, and the Army Research Office through the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies (ICB) at Caltech (ARO Award number UCSB.ICB4b). Part of this work was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory under a contract with NASA. The authors acknowledge critical support and infrastructure provided by the Kavli Nanoscience Institute at Caltech.

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D.J. and L.R.M. fabricated the samples and conducted all experiments. F.G. deposited TiN by ALD in the Microdevices Laboratory at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. L.R.M. performed finite-element analysis. J.R.G. conceived of the research and provided guidance. All authors analysed the data, discussed the results and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Julia R. Greer.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Jang, D., Meza, L., Greer, F. et al. Fabrication and deformation of three-dimensional hollow ceramic nanostructures. Nature Mater 12, 893–898 (2013).

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