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New Titanium Alloy Bends the Rules 57

BinaryForces writes "According to Yahoo Takashi Saito and his colleagues at the Toyota Central Research and Development Laboratories in Japan have developed a super alloy with unheard of strength and flexibility. It's not only light, but it can be stretched to more than 2.5 times its original length and return to its previous size. Heat causes almost no expansion. It can be bent and straightened repeatedly without becoming brittle. And the cool part is it was developed using high power computation instead of the traditional trial and error method. More details at Nature's website."
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New Titanium Alloy Bends the Rules

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  • Interesting uses (Score:2, Insightful)

    by toygeek ( 473120 )
    Its light, its strong, and returns to shape. I could see how car suspensions could be made infinitely lighter with such a metal. Imagine, not needing springs anymore, the suspension links ARE the springs ;)

    Things like this are what will make electric cars and extremely effecient cars possible, I think.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:10PM (#5782226)
      infinitely lighter

      That would make them flying cars.

      • Actually if you made them infinitely lighter wouldn't they have zero rest mass? If this were the case you would have flying cars that travelled at the speed of light. I need one of these.
    • It doesn't say about compression or twist strength tho...
    • by zero_offset ( 200586 ) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:53PM (#5782649) Homepage
      Imagine, not needing springs anymore, the suspension links ARE the springs

      You'll always want springs, they're too useful to get rid of. And as you note, if you made other parts of the suspension do double-duty as springs, well, you still have springs.

      The important question isn't to speculate whether you can get rid of springs, it's to speculate whether you can make better springs, either by making them more efficient, or equally efficient with a weight or cost savings. Unfortunately the site is already slashdotted, so I don't know if the article mentions those kind of details, but if it doesn't, it's a huge assumption you're making. Many materials can return to a reasonable facsimilie of their original shape after deformation, but to do so repeatedly over time in a highly predictable and consistent fashion at rates in ranges suited to a suspension system... well, it's almost impossible to beat a plain old cheap steel coils. Even high-end SAE 9254 hot-formed steel racing-grade springs are only a couple hundred bucks for a set of four...

      This reminds me of the predictions (I know you're not predicting) that eventually we'd all be driving around in Nitinol ("memory metal") [] cars that after a fender bender could be popped back into shape with a blow dryer...

      • that is exactly what i was thinking. what kind of fatigue properties does this have. cars(and most other machines) don't just get loaded once and thats it. They get loaded again and again. often cyclically. Things can have great static properties, but their fatigue strength needs to be there also to be useful.

      • Read the article once it comes back up, my post will make MUCH more sense after you have.
    • It's not that flexible. You're still going to need shocks on your car.
    • Stiffness or stiffness per unit wieght, or per unit volume are what springs are all about.

      This sounds like a typical shape memory alloy, aside from the amount of strain that is able to be recovered, exhibiting superplasticity.

      The Russians years ago even made a cool movie of the shape memory effect with their giant sychrotron x-ray sources.
  • ...have to wait for a flexible OLED display before I can get this in a TiBook?

    - Missed it by that much!

  • This stuff is tough, flexible, light, and easily recovers after being deformed. Seems to me that it could rival the theoretical nanotube composites, as material for a space elevator.
    • ... or skidproof metal underpants!!!
    • I would guess that carbon nanotubes still win out in the weight/strength contest, which is the most important factor for the elevator.
    • > it could rival the theoretical nanotube composites

      Carbon nanotubes are, at least in theory, one huge molecule, where these new alloys are still ionically bonded atoms.

      And as we all know, covalent (molecular) bonds are much stronger.
      • The cable for a space elevator won't just be one long molecule, though. No one expects to grow thousand-mile nanotubes in the forseeable future; even making one millimeters in length is a nontrivial problem.

        Current thinking is that the cable will consist of tightly-packed nanotubes held together by some kind of epoxy. One of the major issues is figuring out what that epoxy will be. It needs to hold nanotubes tight enough that they don't slip longitudinally, without adding too much weight or negating carbon
  • MMMMMM (Score:2, Funny)

    by borgboy ( 218060 )
    Yummy titanium Katana for Hiro!
  • mwa ha ha (Score:5, Funny)

    by danratherfan ( 624592 ) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:06PM (#5782200) Journal
    "Takashi Saito and his colleagues at the Toyota Central Research and Development Laboratories in Japan have developed a super alloy with unheard of strength and flexibility. It's not only light, but it can be stretched to more than 2.5 times its original length and return to its previous size. "

    I allready have a material like that, but it isn't a metal. (Well it can feel like one)
  • ... and their ocean-dwelling UFO-crashing alien masters sure have been up to some good work lately!

    Seriously though, how long until we see this metal in Oakleys, I wonder ...
  • Other applications? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tropaios ( 244000 ) <tropaios@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:11PM (#5782239)
    The articles specifically mention use in ultralightweight springs, as one example, or other "precision instruments for use in rugged environments such as in outer space". My question is would this new alloy be so limited to these applications or could an alloy like this affect the design of buildings or bridges? Or have greater effect in making lightweight cars or other common products.

    I am neither a metallugist or an engineer, but I could only imagine this being used in a few years for just about everything much as "aircraft aluminum" is used in making canoes and ski poles.

    I'd think the uses for this could be very far reaching if it can be made affordable enough for common use. I see lighter more durable touring bikes, motorcycles, cars, planes from jets to gliders, to just about anything made of metal I'd suppose.

    Are there any reasons why this metal wouldn't be a good choice for other applications?
    • Are there any reasons why this metal wouldn't be a good choice for other applications?

      One word: Patents.
      • patents (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tid242 ( 540756 ) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:54PM (#5782660) Homepage
        Are there any reasons why this metal wouldn't be a good choice for other applications?

        One word: Patents.

        Actually it's difficult to say what Toyota will do to make licensing difficult for 3rd parties. While they obviously have a vested interest in making competetors pay for it (if use it at all), probably much less so in keeping Girard Perregaux from using it in their chrongraphs, or Volkl building better skis with it. Point in fact, Toyota is the only company in the world with the infrastructure to scale-up their hybrid engines (actually the only company with a hybrid program of any commercial merit apart from Honda), yet they are talking about licensing the technology to their competetors (like GM), apparently in a manner fairly affordable...

        Have faith in the Nippon-jin :)


    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, there are limits. Metals that are "super strong" are usually flexible. This makes for a nice spring, but no good for something that needs stiffness. The springs of a car (made mention by a previous post) are a good candidate but not the chassis. A fexible chassis would throw alignment out.

      This same tradeoff is frequently debated in the biking world. Aluminium frames are light and very stiff, allowing power to be efficiently transfered. Titanium frames are even lighter, but flexy, giving a smooth

    • It could depend on how they define "strong." From the article (thanks for the mirror!), I think they mean tensile strength; that is, they take the ends of a rod or sheet and pull them apart until it breaks. This is very different from load bearing strength (holding a weight in the middle while suspended from the sides).

      Because it's so flexible, would the stuff stretch under strain? This would be bad news in, say, semi-trailer beds.

      It doesn't expand in heat, but does it shrink in cold?

      Is it soluble in

  • This is cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:14PM (#5782265) Homepage Journal
    Tey're already pondering more high-tech stuff, but what about optometry?

    My own glasses are that Flexon stuff that you can practically tie in knots, but it doesn't hold original shape *too* well and will break after doing it a few hundred times. Now imagine glasses frames that are made of this stuff.

    • What I need are glasses made from depleted uranium. Nothing will break that! (Might be a little heavy, though)

      This above is meant to be funny, of course, but consider that, not so long ago, they put uranium in dental fillings...
  • by L. VeGas ( 580015 ) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:14PM (#5782267) Homepage Journal
    it can be stretched to more than 2.5 times its original length and return to its previous size

    Yeah, but do it too often and you'll go blind.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:48PM (#5782596) Homepage Journal
    Stretching is interesting, but I wonder about this material's stiffness and bending forces - if you could make better springs, you could make:
    • Better bows (hey, I'm into archery)
    • Better shock absorbers
    • Better wind-up devices (third world radios, for example)

    And that's just a couple of things off the top of my head.

    • Bending is a form of stretching. Think if it as the outside edge is getting longer and the inside edge is getting shorter, and somewhere in the middle the length stays the same. (That's exactly what's happening)

      • Yes, bending is a form of stretching. However, since the article is /. right now, what I wanted to know was what the modulus of this material was - how much force does it take to bend it per unit cross-sectional area?

        You can bend a noodle, but a noodle makes a lousy bow.

        All the data that I can get to just tells me it can stretch to 2.5 times its length. Great, but what is the spring coeff?
  • One Super Alloy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JHMartin ( 311023 ) <> on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:59PM (#5782705) Homepage
    "...their titanium-based alloys exhibit "super" properties, such as ultrahigh strength and super elasticity. The new materials could prove useful..." (emphasis added)

    This sounds to me like they created multiple alloys with different properties and not a single miracle alloy with all of these properties. I may be wrong but since I cannot get through to read the nature story I can't tell for sure one way of the other.
  • by g( ( 596290 ) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @03:24PM (#5783396) Homepage
    I have a really funny feeling that it all start with one of the guys in the lab looking at the computer and saying, "A keyboard, how quaint"; next thing you know we got transparent alumi,er, a new Titanium Ally.
  • by tsa ( 15680 )
    This is proof of what I always suspected: they are trading prisoners of war and civilians for alien technology. There was talk of this stuff since they found [] some of it in the Roswell space craft!
  • I took the page out of my cache and hosted it on my machine for now. I'll take it down once the site stops getting hammered.
  • in my flexon glasses (the bendy toddler proof kind). Neat.
  • Ayn Rand anyone? For those who've read Atlas Shrugged I'm sure you can conjure something from the 'ole imagination.

    If you haven't, I suggest reading it.

  • Finally, they've invented Rearden Metal. I've been waiting for this. :)

  • There is another story about this on PhysicsWeb []. The story is short, but has some more technical details.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein