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FEATURE ARTICLE

The MAX Phases: Unique New Carbide and Nitride Materials

Ternary ceramics turn out to be surprisingly soft and machinable, yet also heat-tolerant, strong and lightweight

Michel Barsoum, Tamer El-Raghy

Figure 7. A simple card trick illustrates . . .Click to Enlarge Image

One of the major challenges in engineering is the need for versatile materials to serve rapidly developing technologies. For durability and high performance in extreme environments, metals seem ideal: They are electrical and thermal conductors, damage-tolerant and able to withstand high temperatures. Ceramics offer a different set of qualities, being elastically rigid, lightweight, resistant to fatigue and oxidation and even better at enduring high temperatures. An ideal high-performance structural material for, say, jet engines would have all these qualities—and a new class of materials being explored by the authors meets the test. They are fabricating layered materials combining transition metals, carbon or nitrogen and silicon or a related material. The materials form a new class of solids, the nanolaminates, which exhibits new physics along with unusual machinability.


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