A team of US scientists has made the strongest silver ever—42 percent stronger than the previous world record. But that’s not the important point.
“We’ve discovered a new mechanism at work at the nanoscale that allows us to make metals that are much stronger than anything ever made before—while not losing any electrical conductivity,” says Frederic Sansoz, a materials scientist and mechanical engineering professor at the University of Vermont who co-led the new discovery.
This fundamental breakthrough promises a new category of materials that can overcome a traditional trade-off in industrial and commercial materials between strength and ability to carry electrical current.
The team’s results were published on September 23 in the journal Nature Materials.
Sansoz is confident that the team’s approach to making super-strong and still-conductive silver can be applied to many other metals. “This is a new class of materials and we’re just beginning to understand how they work,” he says. And he anticipates that the basic science revealed in the new study can lead to advances in technologies—from more efficient solar cells to lighter airplanes to safer nuclear power plants. “When you can make material stronger, you can use less of it, and it lasts longer,” he says, “and being electrically conductive is crucial to many applications.”