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Dept. of Energy works on tougher ceramics

BERKELEY, Calif., Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Department of Energy researchers say a microscope that allows them to probe ceramics at the atomic level may lead to more energy-efficient generators.

A team at the National Center for Electron Microscopy at the department's Lawrence Berkeley Lab has been examining the location of atoms of oxides of rare earth elements in ceramics to determine how their presence makes the final product tougher. Ceramics that can withstand high temperatures without becoming brittle can be used in gas turbine engines.

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"Our findings are a prime factor in understanding the origin of the mechanical properties in advanced ceramics and should make it possible to do the precise tailoring in the future that will critically improve the performances of these materials over a wide range of applications," said Robert Ritchie, a materials scientist who holds a joint appointment at the lab and at the University of California at Berkeley.

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