The discovery, a continuation of NRL research published in 2014, was made possible by a cutting-edge nanosintering technique, which is the process of essentially bonding nano-sized particles together.
“A few years ago, NRL was the first to show that if you decrease the grain size of ceramics to tens of nanometers, the hardness and strength increase,” said Dr. James Wollmershauser, a materials research engineer in NRL’s Materials Science and Technology Division. “Our current work takes this much further. We decreased the grain size of fully dense ceramics to record breaking single digits, and analyzed the elasticity, hardness, energy dissipation and fracture behavior in ceramics with a wide range of nanosize grains.”
Dr. Heonjune Ryou, a postdoctoral fellow in NRL’s Chemistry Division, characterized the mechanics of the nanocrystalline ceramics and found that they accommodate mechanical energy in a unique way. This aspect had never been seen before in bulk nanocrystalline ceramics, and may revolutionize the design of ceramic armor.