Mind & Matter


New Metal May be Shaped Like Plastic

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Yale scientist Jan Schroers demonstrates the new bulk metallic glass. Image courtesy of Yale University.


The low cost and durability of plastic has ensured its widespread use in consumer packaging and food and beverage containers. Plastic’s ability to be easily molded into complex shapes has been a critical factor to its success in these functions.

Yale University researchers have recently developed a metallic material that may be fabricated like plastic. Metals have a crystalline structure that provides strength but requires multiple, costly steps for processing. However, the Yale scientists’ new material, called a bulk metallic glass (BMG), has a structure made of randomly-arranged atoms and a low rate of cooling. These traits allow the material to be injection-molded as quickly and cheaply as plastic.

According to Yale material scientist Jan Schroers, "This could enable a whole new paradigm for shaping metals. The superior properties of BMGs relative to plastics and typical metals, combined with the ease, economy and precision of blow molding, have the potential to impact society just as much as the development of synthetic plastics and their associated processing methods have in the last century."




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.