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Ceramic nanoparticles infiltrate metal to create lighter, stronger material Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles and Missouri University of Science & Technology have developed a new super-strong yet super-lightweight metal nanocomposite—a metal that owes its surprising strength to ceramic nanoparticles. “It’s been proposed that nanoparticles could really enhance the strength of metals without damaging their plasticity, especially light metals like magnesium, but no groups have been able to disperse ceramic nanoparticles in molten metals until now,” Xiaochun Li, Raytheon Chair in Manufacturing Engineering at UCLA and principal investigator on the research, says in a UCLA press release. “With an infusion of physics and materials processing, our method paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kinds of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today’s society.” Although the idea of adding ceramic particles to enhance the strength of metals is not new, getting the particles evenly dispersed has remained a persistent problem with this concept. “Ceramic particles have been used in metal matrices to further improve the strength of metals, but they tend to clump together, reducing the strengthening efficiency, degrading the metal’s plasticity, and making them hard to machine,” Lianyi Chen, assistant At left, a deformed sample of pure metal; at right, the strong new metal made of magnesium with silicon carbide nanoparticles. Each central micropillar is about 4 μm across. Research News Economical extraction of rare-earth elements from coal A team of Pennsylvania State University (State College, Pa.) and U.S. Department of Energy researchers has found a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to extract rare-earth elements from coal. Using byproducts of coal production, the team investigated whether ion exchange could more safely extract rare earths. The team reports that ammonium sulfate is environmentally friendly and able to extract the highest amount of rare earths. The team also identified locations within the coal seam that contain the highest amounts of rare-earth elements—often the highest concentration is found in the poorestquality coal. For more information, visit news.psu.edu. Credit: UCLA Scifacturing Laboratory See us at Ceramics Expo, booth #210 See us at Ceramics Expo, booth #419 American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 3 | www.ceramics.org 13


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