Engineers have created a new material with an unusual chemical structure that makes it incredibly hard yet elastic. The material can withstand heavy impacts without deforming; even when pushed beyond its elastic limits, it doesn’t fracture, but instead retains most of its original strength. These properties make it potentially useful in a variety of applications ranging from drill bits and body armor for soldiers to meteor-resistant satellite casings.
In the journal Nature Scientific Reports, researchers from USC, the University of California-San Diego, and the California Institute of Technology announced the creation of the material, which was produced by heating a powdered iron composite up to exactly 630°C (1,166°F) and then rapidly cooling it. “In particular, the fact that the new materials performed so well under shock loading was very encouraging and should lead to plenty of future research opportunities,” said Veronica Eliasson, lead author of the paper and assistant professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.