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Stressed nanomaterials display unexpected movement
Date:2/23/2010

ries do not move, a characteristic that helps the material resist deformation. But when Hemker and his colleagues performed experiments on nanocrystalline aluminum thin films, applying a type of force called shear stress, they found an unexpected result. "We saw that the grains had grown bigger, which can only occur if the boundaries move," he said, "and the most surprising part of our observation was that it was shear stress that had caused the boundaries to move."

"The original view," Hemker said, "was that these boundaries were like the walls inside of a house. The walls and the rooms they create don't change size; the only activity is by people moving around inside the room. But our experiments showed that in these nanomaterials, when you apply a particular type of force, the rooms do change size because the walls actually move."

The discovery has implications for those who use thin films and other nanomaterials to make integrated circuits and microelectromechanical systems, commonly called MEMS. The boundary movement shown by Hemker and his colleagues means that the nanomaterials used in these products likely possess more plasticity, higher reliability and less brittleness, but also reduced strength.

"As we move toward making things at much smaller sizes, we need to take into account how activity at the atomic level affects the mechanical properties of the material," Hemker said. "This knowledge can help the microdevice makers decide on the proper size for their components and can lead to better predictions about how long their products will last."


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Contact: Phil Sneiderman
prs@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert  

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