Ritchie says it may be possible to combine other elements to make even better glasses. John Lewandowski, a professor of metallurgy at Case Western Reserve University, says, “One of the results from this project will be to spur a lot of work in related areas, examining the details, modeling it, analyzing temperature effects or what happens when you test it.”
The limitation is palladium’s very high cost. Therefore, Ritchie says, although there are countless structural applications that could utilize this material’s high strength and toughness—like automotive and aerospace components—many of them will prove impractical in the marketplace.
Demetriou is more optimistic. He believes there’s already demand for metallic glass and says a product like a dental implant made from the stuff could be available within the next five years. He says this would offer a “superior alternative” to traditional implants made of noble metals, which are softer and stiffer and thus more likely to wear or cause bone atrophy.
The first step is convincing a manufacturer that the material possesses “unique and unusual attributes,” he says. Then a series of tests of its performance, longevity, and biological compatibility will be needed before ultimately determining whether the pricing would be competitive.
As for making large-scale structures like bridges, Demetriou says cost would probably prevent that. But he has hopes of developing something cheaper. “If we develop an iron or copper alloy with these properties,” he says, “I’ll tell you this: we will put steel out of business forever.”