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nerdguy1138 t1_j99z95h wrote

Why aren't crystal structures always perfect? Wouldn't defects be naturally worked out specifically because of the stress they put on the lattice?


KarlSethMoran t1_j9ab9tm wrote

At low temperatures the thermal energy is too low to overcome the activation energy barrier required for the defect to migrate.


kdeff t1_j9bh9rs wrote

When a metal is molten and cooling, it's atoms start forming bonds and binding together to form the lattice structure. But this cooling process happens simultaneously all over the structure. So all over, new lattices are forming in all different directions! The places where these differently-oriented lattices meet are called "grains boundaries" and they are the weakest points in the metals, where failure eventually happens.

But there are a few examples of perfect crystal lattices through a metal structure - the most well known (the only one I know of) is in Jet Engines. Jet turbines undergo so much stress yet need to be so reliable that they have developed manufacturing processes to make a whole turbine blade be a single crystal lattice. How they do it is a pretty closely held trade secret. But the advantages are huge:

  • NO plastic deformation - since there are no dislocations/imperfections
  • ~10x the material strength compared to the same metal cast normally

There are probably more but this isn't really my field of expertise, maybe someone else can add more..