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UNT Insider | June 2013 issue | Materials scientists discover new phenomenon in steel

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Materials scientists discover new phenomenon in steel

From a UNT News Service press release

Steel, a type of crystalline material, was first created more than 3,500 years ago, and is the most widely used material in the world.

Srinivasan Srivilliputhur, associate professor of materials science and engineering, has discovered a new behavior in steel, which could help industry to develop stronger materials in the future. Srivilliputhur and Chao Jiang, an assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin, have discovered that cementite, an important strengthening component of steel, stiffens and strengthens as it's squeezed.

As pressure increases on cementite and the material stiffens, it becomes harder to deform. The more we understand these behaviors, the better researchers can tailor the materials to develop stronger steel, Srivilliputhur says.

"Steel is a very mature field, and it's a fundamental material in our world. But even after 3,500 years we still don't understand it as well as we could," Srivilliputhur says. "What we found was that cementite behaves similar to the way blood vessels and tissues behave. As you apply force and stretch blood vessels, the vessels get harder. This behavior, common in many biological materials, is unlike most metals and alloys. We have found that cementite behaves more like a biological material. And we also believe this phenomenon occurs unexpectedly in other crystalline materials."

Srivilliputhur and Jiang's findings were recently published in the journal Nature.

Leslie Wimmer with UNT News Service can be reached at


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June 2013

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