Have you ever wondered why a supposedly defect-free material ends up cracking? University of Pennsylvania researchers have an answer. They've studied supposedly flawless materials (in this case, palladium nanowires) to see how they break on a nanoscopic level. As it turns out, these failures usually come down to atoms floating around when their bonds break, usually with little change in temperature. It's seemingly random, too, since the bonds vary widely from atom to atom. The scientists hope that identifying these weak points will help design devices that hold up under strain, even at the smallest possible level. Don't be surprised if you're one day using gadgets that are much more reliable, even at the smallest possible levels.
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