Metallic Glass Research Nets Breakthroughs, Yale Honor for Egami

The phrase “metallic glass” may sound like an oxymoron, but the substance is very real, though underutilized.

That could soon change.

EgamiResearch being done by professors like UT’s Takeshi Egami has shown the potential of metallic glass, but it took a recent move to the substance by a tech heavyweight to really open up its potential.

“It’s been around and available for quite some time, but the cost has remained fairly prohibitive because it hasn’t been produced in any significant amount,” said Egami, a UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distinguished Scientist and professor of materials science and engineering. “Then, fairly recently, Apple decided to invest in it, which will increase the amount of it available and help bring the price down.”

The substance is set to play a much more critical role in technology ranging from iPhones to watches in the next few years.

Its strength, formability, and durability make it ideal for use as casing for phones, tablets, or pretty much any portable device.

“If you drop a phone right now it will likely get bent or even shatter, but if it’s made out of metallic glass, the likelihood of that happening is greatly reduced,” said Egami. “The Omega watch company is beginning to use it for that same reason, but on a $6,500 watch.”

Egami—who is director emeritus of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Neutron Sciencespointed out that while the costs are still high, parallels can be drawn with graphite-based fibers, another substance that was once too pricey for widespread use.

As graphite became adapted for use in everything from tennis rackets and golf clubs to vehicles and even concrete, its price plummeted, something Egami believes can be repeated as metallic glass becomes more widespread.

For his efforts on theory, simulation, and characterization of metallic glasses, Yale University has honored Egami by naming him an Aris Phillips Lecturer.

Given by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Yale, the award is “the most prestigious award of our department,” according to a Yale description.

As part of the honor, Egami will visit the school’s New Haven, Connecticut, campus in February to present his lecture.

He is just the eleventh person so honored since the award was created in 1988 in memory of Phillips, who began teaching at the California Institute of Technology in 1947 before later moving to Stanford University and then in 1954 to Yale, where he remained until his death in 1985.

CONTACT:

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)