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Metallurgy

Metals, alloys, ceramics, and composites are the backbone of the automotive, construction, and aerospace industries, and are also extensively used in complex biomedical and biomimetic applications. Game-changing advances in these fields rely on innovative material design based on new principles, and require better understanding of how to predict and optimise material properties.  

This collection highlights some of the experimental and theoretical work published in Nature Communications on the science and engineering of load-bearing materials, and on how microstructure and operating environment can affect performance. It showcases the latest research dealing with material behaviour, defects, and phase transitions at the macro, micro, and nano-scale.

High entropy alloys

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Additive manufacturing of high entropy alloys is still an emerging field that usually relies on expensive pre-alloyed powders. Here, the authors develop a method to 3D ink-print a CoCrFeNi high entropy alloy using inexpensive blended oxide nanopowders, hydrogen reduction, and sintering.

    • Christoph Kenel
    • , Nicola P. M. Casati
    •  &  David C. Dunand
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Medium entropy alloy CoCrNi has better mechanical properties than high entropy alloys such as CrMnFeCoNi, but why that is remains unclear. Here, the authors show that a nanostructured phase at lattice defects in CoCrNi causes its extraordinary properties, while it is magnetically frustrated and suppressed in CrMnFeCoNi.

    • Changning Niu
    • , Carlyn R. LaRosa
    • , Jiashi Miao
    • , Michael J. Mills
    •  &  Maryam Ghazisaeidi
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Exploration of high entropy alloy phases where little experimental data exists is still challenging. Here, the authors develop an approach where parameters from first principle simulations are incorporated into Monte Carlo simulations to reproduce phase evolution of aluminium-containing high entropy alloys.

    • L. J. Santodonato
    • , P. K. Liaw
    • , R. R. Unocic
    • , H. Bei
    •  &  J. R. Morris
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    High entropy alloys usually emphasize equiatomic compositions, which restrict the compositions available to induce strengthening via precipitation. Here the authors use spinodal decomposition in a five-element alloy to obtain high content nanophases and the highest tensile strength reported to date.

    • Yao-Jian Liang
    • , Linjing Wang
    • , Yuren Wen
    • , Baoyuan Cheng
    • , Qinli Wu
    • , Tangqing Cao
    • , Qian Xiao
    • , Yunfei Xue
    • , Gang Sha
    • , Yandong Wang
    • , Yang Ren
    • , Xiaoyan Li
    • , Lu Wang
    • , Fuchi Wang
    •  &  Hongnian Cai
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Twinning has been experimentally seen in high-entropy alloys, but understanding how it operates remains a challenge. Here, the authors show that twinning can be a primary deformation mechanism in three well-known medium- and high-entropy alloys that have unstable face-centered cubic lattices.

    • Shuo Huang
    • , He Huang
    • , Wei Li
    • , Dongyoo Kim
    • , Song Lu
    • , Xiaoqing Li
    • , Erik Holmström
    • , Se Kyun Kwon
    •  &  Levente Vitos
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Producing in situ composite materials with superior strength and ductility has long been a challenge. Here, the authors use lamellar microstructure inherited from casting, rolling, and annealing to produce an ultrafine duplex eutectic high entropy alloy with outstanding properties.

    • Peijian Shi
    • , Weili Ren
    • , Tianxiang Zheng
    • , Zhongming Ren
    • , Xueling Hou
    • , Jianchao Peng
    • , Pengfei Hu
    • , Yanfei Gao
    • , Yunbo Zhong
    •  &  Peter K. Liaw

Bulk metallic glasses

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Producing nacre-like ceramics with a tough, non-polymeric matrix remains a challenge. Here, the authors use the reactive wetting of a zirconium-based bulk metallic glass to successfully infiltrate a porous alumina and create a composite with improved flexural strength and fracture toughness.

    • Amy Wat
    • , Je In Lee
    • , Chae Woo Ryu
    • , Bernd Gludovatz
    • , Jinyeon Kim
    • , Antoni P. Tomsia
    • , Takehiko Ishikawa
    • , Julianna Schmitz
    • , Andreas Meyer
    • , Markus Alfreider
    • , Daniel Kiener
    • , Eun Soo Park
    •  &  Robert O. Ritchie
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Conventional crystal growth models assume crystals grow into a structure-less liquid, even though liquid metals have shown evidence of structural ordering. Here, the authors show crystal growth can be influenced by the presence of thermodynamically unstable local structural order in the liquid.

    • Yujun Xie
    • , Sungwoo Sohn
    • , Minglei Wang
    • , Huolin Xin
    • , Yeonwoong Jung
    • , Mark D. Shattuck
    • , Corey S. O’Hern
    • , Jan Schroers
    •  &  Judy J. Cha
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Producing ultrastable metallic glasses has always been associated with substrates heated close to the glass transition temperature. Here, the authors show that reducing the deposition rate of the metallic glass on a cold substrate produces ultrastable metallic glasses with remarkably improved stability.

    • P. Luo
    • , C. R. Cao
    • , F. Zhu
    • , Y. M. Lv
    • , Y. H. Liu
    • , P. Wen
    • , H. Y. Bai
    • , G. Vaughan
    • , M. di Michiel
    • , B. Ruta
    •  &  W. H. Wang
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Iron-based bulk metallic glasses are remarkably plastic, but the origin of their plasticity remains challenging to isolate. Here, the authors use high resolution microscopy to show that nanocrystals are dispersed within the glass and form hard and soft zones that are responsible for enhancing ductility.

    • Baran Sarac
    • , Yurii P. Ivanov
    • , Andrey Chuvilin
    • , Thomas Schöberl
    • , Mihai Stoica
    • , Zaoli Zhang
    •  &  Jürgen Eckert
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Understanding the fracture toughness of metallic glasses remains challenging. Here, the authors show that a fictive temperature controls an abrupt mechanical toughening transition in metallic glasses, and can explain the scatter in previously reported fracture toughness data.

    • Jittisa Ketkaew
    • , Wen Chen
    • , Hui Wang
    • , Amit Datye
    • , Meng Fan
    • , Gabriela Pereira
    • , Udo D. Schwarz
    • , Ze Liu
    • , Rui Yamada
    • , Wojciech Dmowski
    • , Mark D. Shattuck
    • , Corey S. O’Hern
    • , Takeshi Egami
    • , Eran Bouchbinder
    •  &  Jan Schroers
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Directly relating the mechanical properties of metallic glasses to their atomic structure remains a challenge. Here, the authors use high resolution microscopy to show many mechanical properties of metallic glasses depend on a single structural parameter, the characteristic length of spatial heterogeneity.

    • Fan Zhu
    • , Shuangxi Song
    • , Kolan Madhav Reddy
    • , Akihiko Hirata
    •  &  Mingwei Chen

Phases and phase transitions

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Little is known about diffusion along metal/ceramic interfaces even though it controls the physical behavior and lifetimes of many devices (including batteries, microelectronics, and jet engines). Here, the authors show that diffusion along a nickel/sapphire interface is abnormally fast due to nickel vacancies and generalise their findings to a wide-range of metal/ceramic systems.

    • Aakash Kumar
    • , Hagit Barda
    • , Leonid Klinger
    • , Michael W. Finnis
    • , Vincenzo Lordi
    • , Eugen Rabkin
    •  &  David J. Srolovitz
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Classifying crystal structures using their space group is important to understand material properties, but the process currently requires user input. Here, the authors use machine learning to automatically classify more than 100,000 simulated perfect and defective crystal structures.

    • Angelo Ziletti
    • , Devinder Kumar
    • , Matthias Scheffler
    •  &  Luca M. Ghiringhelli
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Wear- and corrosion-resistant hardfacing steels rely on carbon for strengthening. Here, the authors report an ultra-high strength silicide phase that could lead to a new class of silicide-strengthened stainless steels and alternative coatings for nuclear applications.

    • D. Bowden
    • , Y. Krysiak
    • , L. Palatinus
    • , D. Tsivoulas
    • , S. Plana-Ruiz
    • , E. Sarakinou
    • , U. Kolb
    • , D. Stewart
    •  &  M. Preuss
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Exactly how hydrogen renders metals brittle is still unclear, and it remains a challenge to predict component failure due to hydrogen embrittlement. Here, the authors identify a class of grain boundaries in a nickel superalloy that deflects propagating cracks and improves alloy resistance to hydrogen.

    • John P. Hanson
    • , Akbar Bagri
    • , Jonathan Lind
    • , Peter Kenesei
    • , Robert M. Suter
    • , Silvija Gradečak
    •  &  Michael J. Demkowicz
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Sulfur at nickel grain boundaries can cause catastrophic failure, but the mechanisms behind that embrittlement remain poorly understood. Here, the authors image and model bipolar sulfur–nickel structures at amorphous-like and bilayer-like facets of general grain boundaries that cause embrittlement.

    • Tao Hu
    • , Shengfeng Yang
    • , Naixie Zhou
    • , Yuanyao Zhang
    •  &  Jian Luo
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Elucidating the formation of quasicrystals, which have long-range orientational order but no translation periodicity, remains a challenge. Here, the authors track and geometrically describe how a decagonal nickel–zirconium seed grows into a tenfold twinned dendritic structure.

    • Wolfgang Hornfeck
    • , Raphael Kobold
    • , Matthias Kolbe
    • , Matthias Conrad
    •  &  Dieter Herlach

Defects and mechanical properties

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Hydrogen contamination in metals during sample preparation for high-resolution microscopy remains a challenge, especially when hydrogen itself is being investigated. Here, the authors show that using cryogenic milling significantly reduces hydrogen pick-up during sample preparation of titanium and titanium alloys.

    • Yanhong Chang
    • , Wenjun Lu
    • , Julien Guénolé
    • , Leigh T. Stephenson
    • , Agnieszka Szczpaniak
    • , Paraskevas Kontis
    • , Abigail K. Ackerman
    • , Felicity F. Dear
    • , Isabelle Mouton
    • , Xiankang Zhong
    • , Siyuan Zhang
    • , David Dye
    • , Christian H. Liebscher
    • , Dirk Ponge
    • , Sandra Korte-Kerzel
    • , Dierk Raabe
    •  &  Baptiste Gault
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    In contrast to steels, fusion welding high strength aluminum alloys such as AA7075 is notoriously difficult. Here, the authors add nanoparticles to a weld filler rod to successfully weld AA7075 without hot cracks or loss of strength at the weld.

    • Maximilian Sokoluk
    • , Chezheng Cao
    • , Shuaihang Pan
    •  &  Xiaochun Li
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Understanding what happens to the liquid in melt pools during welding and metal-based additive manufacturing remains a challenge. Here, the authors directly image internal melt pool dynamics using synchrotron radiation to show surface tension affects flow speed, orientation and surface turbulence.

    • Lee Aucott
    • , Hongbiao Dong
    • , Wajira Mirihanage
    • , Robert Atwood
    • , Anton Kidess
    • , Shian Gao
    • , Shuwen Wen
    • , John Marsden
    • , Shuo Feng
    • , Mingming Tong
    • , Thomas Connolley
    • , Michael Drakopoulos
    • , Chris R. Kleijn
    • , Ian M. Richardson
    • , David J. Browne
    • , Ragnvald H. Mathiesen
    •  &  Helen. V. Atkinson
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    3D printing of titanium alloys today is based on known alloy compositions that result in anisotropic structural properties. Here, the authors add lanthanum to commercially pure titanium and exploit a solidification path that reduces texture and anisotropy.

    • Pere Barriobero-Vila
    • , Joachim Gussone
    • , Andreas Stark
    • , Norbert Schell
    • , Jan Haubrich
    •  &  Guillermo Requena
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Weaker ferritic/matensitic steels rather than stronger austenitic steels are usually candidates for nuclear reactors since they do not easily swell under irradiation. Here, the authors make an ultrastrong lanthanum-doped nanocrystalline austenitic steel that is thermally stable and radiation-tolerant.

    • Congcong Du
    • , Shenbao Jin
    • , Yuan Fang
    • , Jin Li
    • , Shenyang Hu
    • , Tingting Yang
    • , Ying Zhang
    • , Jianyu Huang
    • , Gang Sha
    • , Yugang Wang
    • , Zhongxia Shang
    • , Xinghang Zhang
    • , Baoru Sun
    • , Shengwei Xin
    •  &  Tongde Shen
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Solution treatment and quenching can strengthen magnesium-lithium-aluminium alloys, but this strength decreases with ageing. Here, the authors show this is due to semi-coherent nanoparticle precipitation followed by coarsening, and control the lattice mismatch to stabilise the microstructure.

    • Song Tang
    • , Tongzheng Xin
    • , Wanqiang Xu
    • , David Miskovic
    • , Gang Sha
    • , Zakaria Quadir
    • , Simon Ringer
    • , Keita Nomoto
    • , Nick Birbilis
    •  &  Michael Ferry