A New Breed of Spring?

Researchers have recently announced that they have discovered a method to strengthen metals by making structural changes to the material – and the implications are endless.

Professor Yuntian Zhu of NC State University and Professor Xiaolei Wu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Mechanics have collaborated to author two new papers on the topic, which promises to open up new and exciting avenues of research into the potential applications of this discovery.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Professors Wu and Zhu found their inspiration in natural materials – including bone and bamboo – which feature what they now describe as a “gradient structure”. In essence, the grains on the surface of such a material are small and closely-packed, giving the structure strength. Lower down however, the grains are larger, lending the material ductility – the ability to bend without breaking.
Traditional metals have lacked this sort of structure, and consisted almost exclusively of small, closely packed grains all the way down, leading to materials which are, paradoxically, strong but highly fragile. If taken beyond accepted stress levels, such materials will break catastrophically, rather than bend.


The applications for this discovery are almost without limit. Because the structure of the metal itself can be changed, and because of our new understanding regarding the effects of changing that structure, metal can effectively be “customised” to suit a variety of roles. Incredible strength and flexibility can be combined into one product – and this is merely the most apparent of the potential uses of this knowledge. We eagerly await news of further discoveries of applications for this revolutionary discovery.

What does it mean for us?

We've previously discussed the way that spring manufacture is changing in the field of automotives, but this new discovery has really opened up the field for research into new ways of manufacturing springs. With the capacity to customise the properties of the metal used in the process of making springs, we could see whole new ranges of such devices with hitherto unfathomable properties, strengths, and capacities. At this early stage, we are limited only by our imagination.

Here at European Springs, we pride ourselves on keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in spring and pressing manufacture, and we stock a wide range of springs as a result, from compression springs to disc springs. To find out more about the services we offer, simply use the details on our Contact page, email us at info.bec@europeansprings.co.uk, or call us on +44 (0) 208 663 1800.

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