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Researchers have found that a solid oxide protective coating for metals can, when applied in sufficiently thin layers, deform as if it were a liquid, filling any cracks and gaps as they form. Image: Christine Daniloff/MIT

Self-healing metal oxides could protect against corrosion

MIT scientists have recently discovered that a strong oxide defensive covering for metals can, when connected inadequately thin layers, disfigure as though it were a...
By adapting a thermal imaging furnace more commonly used for growing crystals, MIT graduate student Bradley Nakanishi melted an aluminum oxide rod and contacted the hanging liquid pendant that it formed with electrodes, enabling the decomposition by electrolysis of the material into oxygen gas and aluminum alloy for the first time. Here, a back-scattered electron micrograph shows the variation in composition and microstructure along a vertical cross-section of the cathode after electrolysis. A liquid aluminum-iridium alloy deposit (center-right) forms at the interface between the iridium cathode (left) and electrolyte (black area, far right). Image: Bradley Nakanishi

Enlightening the properties of very hot compounds

The thermodynamic properties of compounds, for example, aluminum oxide, which is known as obstinate materials since they liquefy at temperatures over 2,000 degrees Celsius....