Clear understanding of the superior mechanical strength of nanometer-sized metal single crystals is required to derive advanced mechanical components retaining such superiority. Although high quality studies have been reported on nano-crystalline metals, the superiority of small single crystals has neither been fundamentally explained nor quantified to this date. Here we present a molecular dynamics study of aluminum single crystals in the size range from 4.1 nm to 40.5 nm. We show that the ultimate mechanical strength deteriorates exponentially as the single crystal size increases. The small crystals superiority is explained by their ability to continuously form vacancies and to recover them. © 2013 Published by Elsevier B.V.