What makes metals "harder" than others on an atomic level?

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What makes metals "harder" than others on an atomic level?

Post by holymoly on Fri Nov 17, 2017 8:04 am

Hi everyone, I was wondering if any of you knew what makes hard metals hard? Steel for example, is apparently very hard, and can even be hardened when you add a surface layer on top of it, for example borinox.

On an atomic, or physical level, how can you explain hard materials? How does steel differ from, say, wood on a structural level?

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Re: What makes metals "harder" than others on an atomic level?

Post by Jonathan Ainsley Bain on Thu Mar 29, 2018 5:47 pm

Good question.
It always perplexed me as to how electrons are differently distributed in metals as to other substances.
Like when you break a magnet in half, if the positive end is on the left before you break it, then
it stays on the left for both broken pieces. Intuitively I would wrongly guess that the left half of
the broken magnet should be positive, and the right half be negative. If the electrons are just particles
on the right side of the unbroken magnet, then how do they just jump across when it gets broken?
It seems like a purely particle explanation would not work here.

Not quite an answer to your question, but this does show that atomic structure is a bit weird.
Much like some substances are utterly transparent. Its all quite peculiar down there.

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