Scientists working at the Molecular Foundry have found the mechanism by which titanium becomes brittle with just a few extra atoms of oxygen.
Significance and Impact
The expense of purifying titanium to achieve low levels of oxygen prevents its wider use in applications for the construction, automotive and aerospace industries. Understanding how oxygen hardens titanium offers a target for research into control of the process.
- Structural materials like titanium are often strengthened through the addition of small amounts of different kinds of elements, but the effect of oxygen on titanium is disproportionate with this typical effect.
- Researchers subjected titanium to nanocompression tests and examined the resulting impact using aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy and quantum mechanical predictions of defect structures.
- It was found that the interaction between oxygen and the crystalline defects, or dislocations, were key to how the material hardened and why it was more susceptible to cracking.