Rotated views of an aluminium alloy sample. Each dot is an individual atom and the colour blocks show where the atoms have formed into different crystals. This alloy also contains copper, magnesium, zinc and silicon. The small size of the crystals makes this alloy very strong.

Visualised using atom probe tomography by Dr Gang Sha and Dr Baptiste Gault, University of Sydney.

Size: sample is 150 nanometres high.

Metallurgists are constantly trying to make better alloys – stronger, harder or more flexible. It is really difficult to get strength and flexibility combined in the one alloy but every now and then they do it, making something with great potential for stronger, lighter, and therefore greener, vehicles, construction materials and medical implants.

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