PerspectiveMaterials Science

Metallurgy in the Age of Silicon

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Science  09 Dec 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5754, pp. 1623-1624
DOI: 10.1126/science.1121019

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Since the Bronze Age, humans have known how to make stronger materials by mixing one metal with another. But some alloys have the puzzling property of being softer than the starting metals. In his Perspective, Chrzan discusses results reported in the same issue by Trinkle and Woodward in which solute-induced softening is studied computationally in molybdenum-rhenium and molybdenum-platinum alloys. The calculations indicate how the solutes influence the movement of dislocations in the alloy and thus its plasticity. Beyond solving one of the longstanding riddles of metallurgy, the results also show that computational materials science is maturing into a powerful tool for research.