Multifunctional metallic nanocomposite for overcoming the strength–ductility trade-off

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Scientific Reports volume 14, Article number: 1046 (2024)


The actualization of high strength and ductility in alloys, in addition to providing strong, formable materials, can lead to reduced weights in practical applications. However, increasing strength typically comes at the cost of lowering the ductility and vice-versa, referred to as the strength–ductility trade-off. In this work, we investigate the thermo-mechanical response of a 3-element multifunctional NiTi–Nb nanocomposite material that overcomes this trade-off, as it exhibits a high strength of 980 MPa and an ultrahigh ductility of 58% at fracture. The remarkable properties are attributed to the underlying microstructure of Nb nanofibers dispersed in an NiTi matrix. Deformation is accommodated via the shape memory transformation of the active NiTi matrix in concert with elastoplastic deformation of Nb nanofibers embedded within the matrix. Consequently, the material exhibits multifunctionality and recovers deformation during heating via the reversion of the stress-induced martensitic transformation in the NiTi matrix. The high strength and high ductility of this 3-element nanocomposite material puts it amongst the best performing high-entropy alloys (HEAs) that are typically made up of five or more elements.