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Unusual behavior may signal new uses for steel

Srinivasan Srilliviputhur, associate professor of materials science and engineeringSteels, a type of crystalline material, were first created more than 3,500 years ago, and are the most widely used material in the world.

Engineering professor Srinivasan Srivilliputhu, right, has discovered a new behavior in steel, which could help industry to develop stronger materials.

Srivilliputhur, associate professor of materials science and engineering  and his collaborator 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.

-Leslie Wimmer, News Promotions

Posted on: Mon 06 May 2013

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