It has been well understood that if you could decrease the size of the crystals that make up the structures of most metals, you would improve the mechanical properties of those metals, including their strength. However, finding a way to decrease crystal size and maintain that smaller size in the face of heat has proven difficult. Typically, the crystals want to grow larger if exposed to heat or stress.

Now, MIT researchers may have found a way to ensure that the crystals maintain their small size even in the presence of heat and stress, thus achieving the goal of creating stable nanocrystalline materials.