How to make glass out of pure zirconium

"This is the first time that bulk-metallic glass has been formed from a single element or pure metal," says researcher Yusheng Zhao. "By using industrial pressure processes to make pure samples without the defects that appear in metallic glasses made the conventional way, we've identified a method with potentially-important commercial applications,"he adds.

Bulk-metallic glasses (BMGs) have begun replacing conventional materials such as crystalline metals, metal alloys, and high-tech ceramics. They resist breaking when stretched, keep their shape, are hard to shatter, and behave elastically like polymers but are much stronger than metal alloys. Current applications include structural-engineering materials, consumer-electronic components, replacement joints and skis, tennis rackets, and golf-club heads. But these BMGs contain three or more component elements, which means they have lower thermal stability and phase separation at higher temperatures.

The Los Alamos samples remain as glass at temperatures above 1,600F, more than 400 higher than the temperatures at which they were formed, and at pressures of 2.8 billion pascals. Traditional BMGs turn to crystals, losing important properties at temperatures as low as 800F.