Bone-like crack resistance in hierarchical metastable nanolaminate steels

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Science  10 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6329, pp. 1055-1057
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2766

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Bone-inspired steel

Load cycling of metal components leads to fatigue and ultimately failure through the propagation of cracks. Koyama et al. took inspiration from bone to develop a steel with a laminated substructure that arrests cracks. The resulting hierarchical material has much better fatigue resistance properties than other iron alloys. The strategy need not be limited to steel; other metal alloys should also benefit from this type of microstructural engineering.

Science, this issue p. 1055


Fatigue failures create enormous risks for all engineered structures, as well as for human lives, motivating large safety factors in design and, thus, inefficient use of resources. Inspired by the excellent fracture toughness of bone, we explored the fatigue resistance in metastability-assisted multiphase steels. We show here that when steel microstructures are hierarchical and laminated, similar to the substructure of bone, superior crack resistance can be realized. Our results reveal that tuning the interface structure, distribution, and phase stability to simultaneously activate multiple micromechanisms that resist crack propagation is key for the observed leap in mechanical response. The exceptional properties enabled by this strategy provide guidance for all fatigue-resistant alloy design efforts.

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