Salt-assisted incorporation method. WC nanoparticles were mixed with Borax (Na2B4O7)–5wt%CaF2 salt powders with a mechanical shaker (SK-O330-Pro) for 1 hour. The volume fraction of nanoparticles in the salt mixture was designed as 10%. As shown in fig. S1A, pure oxygen-free Cu (99.99%; RotoMetals Inc.) ingots were melted at 1250°C in a graphite crucible with an induction heater. Inert Ar gas was purged on the molten Cu to avoid severe oxidation. The mixed Na2B4O7-5wt%CaF2-WC nanoparticles were manually loaded on the surface of the molten Cu. A graphite propeller was located below the Cu-salt interface and stirred at a speed of 400 rpm for 20 min to incorporate WC nanoparticles into the Cu melt. Then, the melt was allowed to cool down to 900°C to allow Cu to solidify first, while salt mixture was still in the liquid state. Liquid salt was poured out from the crucible, and a Cu-WC ingot was left. The volume fraction of WC nanoparticles in Cu was designed to be 0, 5, 10, and 20 volume %.

Surface clean TiB2 nanoparticles were synthesized by the magnesiothermic reduction of TiO2 nanoparticles and B2O3 powders in molten salt (39). The synthesized TiB2 nanoparticles and KAlF4 flux were then mechanically mixed at the solid state for 3 hours. Mixed powders were dehydrated at 120°C for 1 hour in a vacuum oven. An electrical resistance furnace was used to melt the Al ingots at 820°C under argon (Ar) gas protection. Then, the mixed powders were added to the melt surface and melt was mechanically stirred at 200 rpm for 10 min with a titanium (Ti) mixing blade. The designed volume fraction of TiB2 in Al is 10 volume %. The melt was taken out from the furnace and naturally cooled down to room temperature under Ar gas protection.

Powder melting method. Cu powders (<10 μm; Sigma-Aldrich) and Zn powders (150 μm; Alfa Aesar) were first mixed with a designed volume fraction of WC nanoparticles (150 to 200 nm; U.S. Research Nanomaterials) for 1 hour with a mechanical shaker (SK-O330-Pro). The mixed powders were then compressed into 2.0-cm-diameter discs under 250 MPa with a hydraulic machine. As shown in fig. S1B, Cu-WC cold compacted discs were compression-melted at 1250°C with an induction heater while under a pressure of 7 to 10 MPa under a graphite disc and alumina piston. After solidification in air, Cu ingots with WC nanoparticles were obtained. Zn-WC cold compacted billets were then melted at 500°C and ultrasonically processed with a niobium (Nb) probe for 10 min to disperse WC nanoparticles in the Zn melt. Then, the melt was taken out from the furnace and cooled down under Ar gas protection.

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