Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers identified a mechanism in a 3D-printed alloy that could enable the design of better-performing lightweight materials for vehicles.

One way to improve energy efficiency in vehicles is to make them lighter with aluminum-based materials. Researchers monitored a version of ORNL’s ACMZ (aluminum, copper, manganese and zirconium) alloy for deformation that occurs when the material is under persistent mechanical stress at high temperatures. Using neutron diffraction, researchers studied the material’s atomic structure and observed that the overall stress was absorbed by one part of the alloy but transferred to another part during deformation. This back-and-forth shuffling prevents strengthening in some areas.

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