Summary
In materials science, a metal matrix composite (MMC) is a composite material with fibers or particles dispersed in a metallic matrix, such as copper, aluminum, or steel. The secondary phase is typically a ceramic (such as alumina or silicon carbide) or another metal (such as steel). They are typically classified according to the type of reinforcement: short discontinuous fibers (whiskers), continuous fibers, or particulates. There is some overlap between MMCs and cermets, with the latter typically consisting of less than 20% metal by volume. When at least three materials are present, it is called a hybrid composite. MMCs can have much higher strength-to-weight ratios, stiffness, and ductility than traditional materials, so they are often used in demanding applications. MMCs typically have lower thermal and electrical conductivity and poor resistance to radiation, limiting their use in the very harshest environments. MMCs are made by dispersing a reinforcing material into a metal matrix. The reinforcement surface can be coated to prevent a chemical reaction with the matrix. For example, carbon fibers are commonly used in aluminium matrix to synthesize composites showing low density and high strength. However, carbon reacts with aluminium to generate a brittle and water-soluble compound Al4C3 on the surface of the fiber. To prevent this reaction, the carbon fibers are coated with nickel or titanium boride. The matrix is the monolithic material into which the reinforcement is embedded, and is completely continuous. This means that there is a path through the matrix to any point in the material, unlike two materials sandwiched together. In structural applications, the matrix is usually a lighter metal such as aluminum, magnesium, or titanium, and provides a complete support for the reinforcement. In high-temperature applications, cobalt and cobalt–nickel alloy matrices are common. The reinforcement material is embedded into a matrix.
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