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Titanium is strong and lightweight, boasting the highest strength to weight ratio of any structural metal. But processing it while maintaining a good balance of strength and ductility—the ability of a metal to be drawn out without breaking—is challenging and expensive. As a result, titanium has been relegated to niche uses in select industries.

Now, as reported in a recent study published in the journal Science, researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered a new and practical path forward. 

The team found that they could use a technique called cryo-forging to manipulate pure on the scale of a billionth of a meter (a nanometer) at ultra- to produce extra-strong "nanotwinned" titanium without sacrificing any of its ductility.

"This study is the first time someone has produced a pure nanotwinned structure in ," said Andrew Minor, the study's project lead and director of the National Center for Electron at the Molecular Foundry, a nanoscience user facility at Berkeley Lab. "With nanotwinned titanium, we no longer have to choose between strength and ductility but instead can achieve both."

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