Meteoric iron is the metal that humans first obtained and used in the earliest stage of metal culture. Advances in metallographic analysis techniques have revealed that meteoric iron largely comprises kamacite, taenite, and cohenite, which correspond to ferrite, austenite, and cementite in artificial steel, respectively. Although the mechanical properties of meteoric irons were measured previously to understand their origin and history, the genuine mechanical properties of meteoric iron remain unknown because of its complex microstructure and the pre-existing cracks in cohenite. Using micro-tensile tests to analyse the single-crystalline constituents of the Canyon Diablo meteorite, herein, we show that the taenite matrix exhibits excellent balance between yield strength and ductility superior to that of the kamacite matrix. We found that taenite is rich in nitrogen despite containing a large amount of nickel, which decreases the nitrogen solubility, suggesting that solid-solution strengthening via nitrogen is highly effective for the Fe–Ni system. Our findings not only provide insights for developing advanced high-strength steel but also help understand the mysterious relationship between nitrogen and nickel contents in steel. Like ancient peoples believed that meteoric iron was a gift from the heavens, the findings herein imply that this thought continues even now.
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