Potential solutions to big problems continue to arise from research that is revealing how materials behave at the smallest scales. The results of a new study to understand the interactions of various metal alloys at the nanometer and atomic scales are likely to aid advances in methods of preventing the failure of systems critical to public and industrial infrastructure. Research led by Arizona State University materials science and engineering professor Karl Sieradzki is uncovering new knowledge about the causes of stress-corrosion cracking in alloys used in pipelines for transporting water, natural gas and fossil fuels, as well as for components used in nuclear power generating stations and the framework of aircraft. Using advanced tools for ultra-high-speed photography and digital image correlation, the team has been able to closely observe the events triggering the origination of stress-corrosion fracture in a model silver-gold alloy and to track the speed at which cracking occurs.
The team’s discoveries could provide a guide for designing alloys with different microstructures so that the materials are resistant to this type of cracking.