Ultrahigh elastically compressible and strain-engineerable intermetallic compounds under uniaxial mechanical loading

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Song, Gyuho
Borisov, Vladislav
Meier, William
Xu, Mingyu
Dusoe, Keith
Sypek, John
Valentí, Roser
Lee, Seok-Woo
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Canfield, Paul
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Ames National Laboratory

Ames National Laboratory is a government-owned, contractor-operated national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), operated by and located on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

For more than 70 years, the Ames National Laboratory has successfully partnered with Iowa State University, and is unique among the 17 DOE laboratories in that it is physically located on the campus of a major research university. Many of the scientists and administrators at the Laboratory also hold faculty positions at the University and the Laboratory has access to both undergraduate and graduate student talent.

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Physics and Astronomy
Physics and astronomy are basic natural sciences which attempt to describe and provide an understanding of both our world and our universe. Physics serves as the underpinning of many different disciplines including the other natural sciences and technological areas.
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Intermetallic compounds possess unique atomic arrangements that often lead to exceptional material properties, but their extreme brittleness usually causes fracture at a limited strain of less than 1% and prevents their practical use. Therefore, it is critical for them to exhibit either plasticity or some form of structural transition to absorb and release a sufficient amount of mechanical energy before failure occurs. This study reports that the ThCr2Si2-structured intermetallic compound (CaFe2As2) and a hybrid of its structure (CaKFe4As4) with 2 µm in diameter and 6 µm in height can exhibit superelasticity with strain up to 17% through a reversible, deformation-induced lattice collapse, leading to a modulus of resilience orders of magnitude higher than that of most engineering materials. Such superelasticity also can enable strain engineering, which refers to the modification of material properties through elastic strain. Density functional theory calculations and cryogenic nanomechanical tests predict that superconductivity in CaKFe4As4 could be turned on/off through the superelasticity process, before fracture occurs, even under uniaxial compression, which is the favorable switching loading mode in most engineering applications. Our results suggest that other members with the same crystal structure (more than 2500 intermetallic compounds) and substitution series based on them should be examined for the possibility of manifesting similar superelastic and strain-engineerable functional properties.