Will Giant Crystals Toughen Up Giant Turbines?

Ordinary metal alloys look uniform, but under the microscope they're a multicrystalline crazy quilt. That's because as molten alloys cool, crystals branch out from many points like frost on a window. At high temperatures, alloys are weakest where different crystals abut. To make stronger aircraft-engine parts, scientists at United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney Co. in the late 1970s controlled the cooling of molten-nickel alloys so each part was a huge crystal grown from one "seed." That's now the norm for jet-engine parts.

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