Highly ductile amorphous oxide at room temperature and high strain rate

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Science  15 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6467, pp. 864-869
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav1254

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A glass that won't break

Oxide glasses are important for applications ranging from smartphone screens to window panes. One familiar feature of glass is that it fractures and shatters when rapidly deformed, limiting the number of potential uses. However, Frankberg et al. found that they could deform thin films of glassy alumina (Al2O3) with high strain rates at room temperature (see the Perspective by Wondraczek). This surprising observation is supported by simulations of the material that show that dense and flawless glassy alumina samples can deform this way. The discovery provides important insight into designing new glasses that might be more fracture resistant.

Science, this issue p. 864; see also p. 804


Oxide glasses are an integral part of the modern world, but their usefulness can be limited by their characteristic brittleness at room temperature. We show that amorphous aluminum oxide can permanently deform without fracture at room temperature and high strain rate by a viscous creep mechanism. These thin-films can reach flow stress at room temperature and can flow plastically up to a total elongation of 100%, provided that the material is dense and free of geometrical flaws. Our study demonstrates a much higher ductility for an amorphous oxide at low temperature than previous observations. This discovery may facilitate the realization of damage-tolerant glass materials that contribute in new ways, with the potential to improve the mechanical resistance and reliability of applications such as electronic devices and batteries.

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