UNT materials scientist discovers new phenomenon in crystals

Friday, May 3, 2013 - 14:14

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Steels, a type of crystalline material, were first created more than 3,500 years ago, and are the most widely used material in the world. A University of North Texas materials scientist has discovered a new behavior in steel, which could help industry to develop stronger materials in the future.

Dr. Srinivasan Srivilliputhur, an associate professor of materials science and engineering in UNT’s College of Engineering, and his collaborator Dr. Chao Jiang of the University of Wisconsin, have discovered that cementite, the important strengthening component of steel, stiffens and gets stronger as it is stretched and squeezed. Understanding this behavior will help scientists develop stronger steels. Jiang and Srivilliputhur’s findings were recently published in the journal Nature.

“Steel is a very mature field, and it’s a fundamental material in our world. But even after 3,500 years we still don’t understand it as well as we could,” Srivilliputhur said. “What we found was that cementite behaves similar to the way blood vessels and tissues behave. As you apply force and stretch blood vessels, the vessels get harder. This behavior, common in many biological materials, is unlike most metals and alloys. We have found that cementite behaves more like a biological material. And we also believe this phenomenon occurs unexpectedly in other crystalline materials.”

As pressure increases on cementite, the material stiffens and becomes harder to deform. The more we understand these behaviors, the better researchers can tailor the materials to create stronger steel, Srivilliputhur said.


Editor’s note: A photo of Srivilliputhur can be found online.


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