Missouri University of Science and Technology researchers have created a lightweight but very strong structural metal that could improve energy efficiency in biomedical applications. The team mixed silicon carbide into a molten magnesium-zinc alloy that uniformly dispersed and stabilized the nanoparticles.

"The evenly dispersed nanoparticles provide strength throughout the metal and improve plasticity simultaneously,” said Professor Lianyi Chen.

Ceramic particles have been used in metal matrices to further improve the strength of metals, but the particles tend clump together, reducing the strengthening efficiency, degrading the metal’s plasticity, and making them hard to machine.

Chen and his colleagues counteracted the issue by developing a nanoparticle dispersion and self-stabilization approach, which leads to the uniform dispersion of 14 percent nanoparticles in the resulting Mg2Zn metal.

To test the metal, the team used scanning and transmission electron microscopy methods. Images produced show the even dispersal of nanoparticles throughout the metal.