Tuning material properties via disorder
The Materials & Surface Science for EUVL group of Roland Bliem recently published a paper in Materials Today Physics, together with researchers from the University of Amsterdam. In their research, they demonstrate a new way to tune the properties of simple alloys by controlling the level of disorder in the material without changing the chemical composition. This finding highlights a new, versatile approach toward metal coatings and can contribute to an increased use of sustainable materials.
Metal coatings find wide application in technology, ranging from protective layers against corrosion or mechanical damage to coatings for optical properties, such as reflectivity or color. Typically, the desired properties are achieved by selecting the ideal metals for the application or by mixing selected chemical elements to form alloys optimized for the application. In the article, Alessandro Troglia and his co-authors demonstrate for an alloy of Cu and Zr that it is possible to fundamentally change the optical, electronic, and chemical properties of an alloy even without changing its composition. The authors tune the material properties of this alloy by deliberately disordering the atomic arrangement in thin CuZr layers, going from locally ordered polycrystalline films to fully amorphous layers. The disordered, glass-like alloy is found to be transparent, semiconducting, and corrosion-resistant, while its ordered counterpart is opaque to visible light, metallic, and more susceptible to corrosion in air.
Tuning material properties via disorder: from crystalline alloy to metallic glass, Alessandro Troglia, Victor Vollema, Silvia Cassanelli, Erik van Heumen, Jorik van de Groep, Anne de Visser, and Roland Bliem, Materials Today Physics 29, 100893 (2022).
From left to right: Alessandro Troglia, Roland Bliem, Stefan van Vliet (credits: Ivar Pel)