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Palladium Glass

Gold has been combined with glass for both decorative and functional purposes. Cranberry glass uses gold compounds to create glass with a distinct red hue. Gold can also be pounded thin enough to be semi-transparent. When combined with glass, you get an effective barrier against solar radiation. When palladium and glass are combined, you get one of the strongest and toughest materials ever created.

Just a few years ago, materials scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology created a type of microalloy using palladium, phosphorus, silicon, germanium, and silver. When combined with glass, it removes its characteristic brittleness. On top of that, it’s stronger and more lightweight than steel.

When force is applied to glass, shear bands form within it – which turn into cracks, which causes the glass to break. Since glass has a non-crystalline structure, shear bands and cracks can form very easily. Palladium’s crystalline structure creates microstructural obstacles that inhibit shear bands from creating cracks. When force is applied to palladium glass, many shear bands form, but they curl back on themselves. This gives the material plasticity, allowing it to bend before breaking. The result is a material of unparalleled strength (i.e. the amount of force a material can take before it deforms) and toughness (i.e. the energy required to fracture a material). It’s somewhat like a rubber band made of steel – it can readily bend and flex, but also stand rigid and hold its shape.

Unfortunately, the price of palladium and the difficult refining techniques required make palladium glass prohibitive to mass produce for the time being. Otherwise it could be a perfect material for fabricating vehicles and aircraft. However, smaller applications are still certainly viable. In particular, the researchers who created the glass think that it may be perfect for dental implants.

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