Scientists Figure Out How Folded Metal Hardens, Solving A 100-Year-Old Metallurgy Mystery


Scientists were puzzled for a long time about what happens when, say, metal is folded into swords by a blacksmith.

It is a 100-year-old puzzle in metallurgy regarding how single crystals show staged hardening, whereas others don’t state a recent study published in Nature Materials.

Hardening Of Folding Metal

Metals, when mechanically deformed, turn into stronger materials, and people have enjoyed this property for thousands of years now. And these metal hardening mechanisms have been unknown physical metallurgy for centuries.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with its team of researchers carried out statistically large atomistic simulations under the leadership of a material scientist ‘Vasily Bulatov.’ These simulations represent macroscopic crystal plasticity, which pushed the supercomputing to its limits.

Metal Hardening, Dislocations & Crystal Plasticity

To study the origins of metal hardening, researchers had to resolve these simulations fully. The answers were to lead to the most basic level of atomic motion.

The Vulcan and Lassen supercomputers at Livermore and the Mira supercomputer at Argonne were behind making these simulations possible.

Until 86 years ago, the hardening of metal’s fundamental causes escaped the scientific explanation till the time of dislocation, which was technically curvilinear that created crystal defects via lattice disorder. This was marked as one of the causes of crystal plasticity.

With the strongly established theoretical basis of direct causal connections between crystal plasticity and dislocations, no one saw this coming within the bulk material itself.

Phases Of Metal Hardening & Dislocations

Bulatov said, “We relied on a supercomputer to clarify what causes metal hardening.” Instead of trying to derive it from the underlying mechanisms of dislocation behavior. It has been the aspiration of dislocation theory for decades, and performed ultra-large-scale computer simulations at a more basic level — the motion of atoms that the crystal is made of.”

The team shows the stage where the metal hardens due to the crystal rotation under the uni-axial straining process. The subject faces varying and contradictory views in the scientific literature. However, the team revealed that metal hardening’s dislocation processes remain the same throughout all stages.

Bulatov said, “In our simulations, we visualized exactly how the motion of individual atoms translates into the motion of dislocations that combine to harden the metal.

Shown endlessly in medieval tales of valor, knights, and modern-day streaming seasons like “Game of Thrones,” the iconic figure of a blacksmith that made swords via hammering and folding metal has finally found a scientific materialistic explanation.


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