Researchers at Brown University have developed a new method of making metals harder: compressing them. Hitting chunks of metal with a hammer is a longstanding technique for hardening the material. Metallurgists can also bend, twist, or run metal between rollers to strengthen it. Each of these methods breaks up the metal’s grain structure, which features microscopic crystals. The smaller the grains, the harder the metal.
Called top-down methods, those older approaches make it difficult to control the size and shape of grains that result, notes Ou Chen, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemistry at Brown and the corresponding author
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