Monday, August 2, 2010

Silicon can be made to melt in reverse

Silicon can be made to melt in reverse: "The material for the tests consisted of a kind of sandwich made from two thin layers of silicon, with a filling of copper, nickel and iron between them. This was first heated enough to cause the metals to dissolve into the silicon, but below silicon’s melting point. The amount of metal was such that the silicon became supersaturated — that is, more of the metal was dissolved in the silicon than would normally be possible under stable conditions. For example, when a liquid is heated, it can dissolve more of another material, but then when cooled down it can become supersaturated, until the excess material precipitates out.

In this case, where the metals were dissolved into the solid silicon, “if you begin cooling it down, you hit a point where you induce precipitation, and it has no choice but to precipitate out in a liquid phase,” Buonassisi says. It is at that point that the material melts."

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