Metal Matters

Metals have been a critical component of materials science for centuries. They are widely used in industries from aerospace to electronics to construction for their unique combination of properties, such as strength and electrical conductivity. Materials scientists and engineers study metals to better understand their properties and behavior and develop new materials that are stronger, more durable, and more efficient.

Another reason for studying metals is their potential for recycling and sustainability. Metals can be recovered from waste streams and reused, reducing the need for new materials and diminishing the environmental impact of production.

Most metals have high melting and boiling points.

melting point of tungsten, the highest of all pure metals
boiling point of tungsten, the highest of all pure metals

Metals Research at DMSE

DMSE started as the Department of Metallurgy and Mining, producing graduates whose work in ore refining and steel production led to an expansion of industry and transportation in the 19th century. Today, metals research at DMSE is focused on developing stronger alloys, more efficient manufacturing methods, and refining techniques that are less harmful to the environment.

To achieve these goals, DMSE researchers are using advanced computational methods to design and predict the properties of new metals before they are produced, enabling the development of alloys with customized properties for specific applications.

How hair deforms steel

Discovered why stainless-steel blades lose their sharpness over time. We found that a single strand of hair can cause the blade to chip. These degradations are more likely to happen if the blade’s microstructure is not uniform or if the blade cuts hair at an angle.

To find out why blades quickly get dull even when they interact with much softer material, like human hair.

Understanding the reasons for failure of materials provides us guidelines for improving them. In this case, making blades of more homogeneous microstructures will likely make them chip-resistant and last longer.

Microstructural and micro-mechanical characterization during hydrogen charging: An in situ scanning electron microscopy study

Developed novel methods to study the influence of hydrogen on metallic materials.

Detecting the presence of tiny hydrogen atoms in materials is difficult—so is evaluating their effects on material structure and properties. Systematic studies can best be conducted by charging the samples with hydrogen in real time while studying its effects in a scanning electron microscope.

Hydrogen embrittlement—or cracking in metals due to absorbed hydrogen—is a common phenomenon in high-strength metallic materials and a frustrating problem for many industries. Studying the process can yield techniques to slow or prevent these failures entirely.