Nanoporous-gold-based composites: toward tensile ductility


We report on mechanical tests on interpenetrating-phase nanocomposite materials made by vacuum impregnation of nanoscale metal networks with a polymer. The metal component is nanoporous gold made by dealloying, whereas two epoxy resins and polyurethane are explored as the polymer component. The composites are strong and deformable in compression. Although previous observations invariably indicate tensile brittleness for nanoporous gold, composite samples made from cm-sized nanoporous samples enable macroscopic tensile and four-point bending tests that show ductility. This implies that the high strength of individual metal objects such as nanowires can now be incorporated into a strong and ductile material from which macroscopic things can be formed. In fact, a rule-of-mixture-type analysis of the stresses carried by the metal phase suggests quantitative agreement with data reported from separate experiments on small-scale gold nanostructures.
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