Bulk Metallic Glass Research
During my summer research with the O’Hern Group at Yale University in 2014, I studied the formation of a type of material called Bulk Metallic Glasses (BMGs). This substance, formed by rapidly cooling molten metal, is stronger than steels and more elastic than polymers. It’s called a “glass” because of its jammed atomic structure (it is not transparent like everyday “glass,” because it is made of metal!). However, metal alloys will form a crystalline structure unless they are cooled very quickly. In order to make the glass, special processing techniques that can cool the alloy fast enough must be used. If better glass-forming alloys could be found, then they would be more readily usable in industry for their desirable properties.
At Yale, I used a pair of supercomputers to run molecular dynamics simulations of how BMGs form. My simulations used metal alloys with three different types of metal atoms, each of a different size. As I varied the amounts of each metal, I measured what happened to the system’s ability to form glass. This project was published in Journal of Chemical Physics and featured on the cover of the issue.
Since my summer research, I have continued to study BMG formation using the distributed computing platform BOINC, with a project called BMG@Home. Similar in format to other projects like SETI@Home or Folding@Home, this research leverages the combined power of many volunteers’ desktop computers to process results. Collectively, the simulations performed will help understand how many physical parameters like atomic size and system stoichiometry affect glass forming ability, enabling the design of real BMGs that behave more ideally.