Why do materials sproede when they freeze
How steel becomes resistant to the cold
Steels with a high proportion of additives are more resistant to cracking, but at the same time also significantly more expensive. Behind this is a change in the microstructure of the steel, which hinders the propagation of cracks in the material. This is exactly what Yuuji Kimura from the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba and his team have achieved through their purely thermal-mechanical treatment: Instead of the more round crystal grains that are created in classic steel production, the modified steel contains elongated, rice-like particles, which also are speckled with tiny carbide crystals. These grains arrange themselves in such a way that they lie on top of each other and thereby form a kind of fibrous layer structure. If a crack now appears, it can push the layers apart, but loses a large part of its energy so that it cannot reproduce any further. If the steel does crack, the crack surface looks more like a frayed piece of wood.
The treated steel has roughly the same hardness as conventional variants at normal temperatures, but remains stable for much longer in the cold. Since no expensive additives are necessary, its production should be comparatively cheap. It could therefore be used, for example, for icebreakers, pipelines or tanks for very cold liquid gases. The only restriction: Since it cannot withstand the same load in all directions due to the layer structure, there could be problems with very thin sheets that are subject to heavy loads.
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