An elastic material claimed to be 588 times more resistant to damage than stainless steel has been developed. Described as a metallic glass, the material is envisaged for several applications including cell phone covers, drill bits and satellite protection.
The impact-resistant material, which researchers at the University of Southern California, San Diego call SAM2X5-630, is said to have twice the resistance of tungsten carbide ceramic used in body armour. It has an unusual chemical structure, which is what makes it so hard yet also elastic.
Powdered iron was placed in a graphite mold. The powder was then charged with an electric current to 1166°F (630°C), binding it together and forcing the iron to form a glass-like structure rather than the highly organised crystalline structure seen in most metals. The university explained that the Hugoniot Elastic Limit (the maximum shock a material can take without irreversibly deforming) of a 1.5-1.8 mm-thick piece of SAM2X5-630 was measured at 11.76 ± 1.26 giga-Pascals. By comparison, stainless steel has an elastic limit of 0.2 giga-Pascals.