Understanding How Materials Fail

Source: UC Santa Barbara | James Badham |

Dec. 22, 2017 – So you drop your smartphone flat on its back. What’s the worst that could happen? These days, maybe a dent.

A smartphone’s metal body is made of a crystalline material with a highly ordered arrangement of atoms. Such materials have a clear order to disrupt — with potential weak points defined by “defects” in that order — making it relatively easy to predict which atoms would change places or become rearranged to form the aforementioned dent.

The same phone’s glass screen is a different story. Made of atoms that are jammed together in no discernible order, the glass side of your device could shatter when dropped. Like many other disordered solids, glass cannot be deformed significantly before failing, and because these materials lack crystalline order, predicting which atoms will shift during a failure is difficult. Continue reading “Understanding How Materials Fail”