Science 3 min read

Scientists Create the World's Strongest Silver to Date

The world's strongest silver to date has been created, paving the way for more efficient solar cells and safer nuclear plants to be developed in the future.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A team of scientists has created a silver that’s 42 percent stronger than the previous world record, making it the strongest silver to date.

Different metals come with various forms of defects. While some metals like Cesium are exceptionally soft, others are very brittle. This makes it necessary to create alloys or heavy mixtures of materials to make them stronger.

There was just one problem.

The stronger these metals get, the less electrical conductivity they have. So, researchers have always wondered if they could make a durable metal that would also retain its electroconductivity.

Such a breakthrough would create a new category of material that’ll overcome the trade-off between a material’s strength and its ability to transmit electricity.

Well, a team of researchers did just that when they created the world’s strongest silver.

In a statement to the press, a materials scientist and mechanical engineering professor at the University of Vermont who co-led the new study, Frederic Sansoz, said:

“We’ve discovered a new mechanism at work at the nanoscale that allows us to make metals that are much stronger than anything ever made before—while not losing any electrical conductivity.”

How is this possible, you ask?

How the Strongest Silver Can Also Carry Electrical Current

To get rid of the defects in silver, the researchers introduced a trace amount of copper into the element. The smaller copper atoms became attracted to these defects and moved in both the grain boundaries and twin boundaries in the silver.

The result was a super-strong form of the metal.

Thanks to the tiny copper impurities within the silver, the defects are unable to move, creating the strongest silver. Also, the quantity of the contaminants is so negligible – about one percent of the total – that it did not compromise silver’s rich electrical conductivity.

The copper atom impurities go along each interface and not in between. So they don’t disrupt the electrons that are propagating through,” Sansoz noted.

The heat-treated version of the copper-laced silver is even more impressive. To the researchers’ surprise, it exceeded the hardness measure of what was believed to be the theoretical maximum.

The basic science that this study employed could be a game-changer. It could lead to advances in technology such as lighter airplanes, more efficient solar cells, and safer nuclear plants.

Sansoz noted:

“When you can make the material stronger, you can use less of it, and it lasts longer. And being electrically conductive is crucial to many applications.”

Read More: Ultralight Silver Nanowire Aerogel to Revolutionize Electronics

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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