Nickel is essential to the stainless steel industry due to its ability to enable strong, corrosion-resistant alloys for applications ranging from gears and transmission shafts to turbines and cryogenics. A long-standing issue in making these alloys is contamination with sulfur impurities during the manufacturing process, which cause them to fail during use. How this happens on the atomic-level remains unclear and is critical to understand and prevent catastrophic failures. In a new paper published in Nature Communications, Dr. Jian Luo and his team have shed light into the process by which the interface between the metal and the impurity results in failure-prone, brittle materials.
Notably, the ability of small impurities to weaken metals isn’t limited to sulfur and nickel. The processes described in this study could lead to better general understanding of mechanisms that weaken metals, leading to safer, high-performance materials for both consumer and defense applications.
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