Amorphous Metals: Super Smooth, Strong, and Flexible

Images collected by atomic force microscope showing how a crystalline metal (left) is more rough than an amorphous metal (right)

Images collected by atomic force microscope showing how a crystalline metal (left) is more rough than an amorphous metal (right)

A schematic plot of strength vs. elasticity for various classes of materials and amorphous metals.

A schematic plot of strength vs. elasticity for various classes of materials and amorphous metals.

The random atomic order of amorphous metals gives them some very amazing properties compared to typical metals. Perhaps the most important of these properties is surface roughness. Amorphous metals can have very low surface roughness. Their smooth surfaces enable amorphous metals to support very thin insulators, which would typically be unable to evenly cover a rough crystalline surface and lead to performance issues.

The other key benefit of an amorphous metal is their mechanical properties. In fact the high strength and flexibility of amorphous metals has led to their use in golf clubs, tennis rackets, and micro-electronic-mechanical devices (MEMs) for high-end theater projector systems.

Effectively, amorphous metals can be as smooth as glass, as strong as steel, and as flexible as plastic.

BackgroundSean Muir