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Researchers have discovered a way to make ceramics tougher and more resistant to cracking. Using a blend of metal atoms possessing more electrons in their outer shell, a team led by engineers at the University of California San Diego has achived a higher level of toughness.

Ceramics offer many advantages due to their remarkable properties, including their ability to withstand extremely high temperatures, resist corrosion and surface wear, and maintain lightweight profiles. These properties make them suitable for a variety of applications such as aerospace components and protective coatings for engines. However they can break easily under stress. But now, researchers have found a solution that could make ceramics harder to break. They published their work titled “Valence electron concentration as key parameter to control the fracture resistance of refractory high-entropy carbides” recently in Science Advances.

Samples of a class of ceramics, known as high-entropy carbides.

The study, led by UC San Diego nanoengineering professor Kenneth Vecchio, centers on a class of ceramics known as high-entropy carbides. These materials have highly disordered atomic structures, composed of carbon atoms bonded with multiple metal elements from the fourth, fifth and sixth columns of the periodic table. These metals include titanium, niobium and tungsten, for example. The researchers found that the key to enhancing ceramic toughness lay in the use of metals from the fifth and sixth columns of the periodic table, due to their higher number of valence electrons.

The challenge now lies in scaling up the production of these tough ceramics for commercial applications. That could help transform technologies that rely on high-performance ceramic materials, from aerospace components to biomedical implants.

Details of the study can be found at


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