New technique creates stronger, lightweight magnesium alloys

Mar 13, 2013
Nano-spaced stacking faults are parallel fault-lines in the structure of the magnesium alloy that increase the strength of the material by 200 percent. Credit: Yuntian Zhu, North Carolina State University

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new technique for creating stronger, lightweight magnesium alloys that have potential structural applications in the automobile and aerospace industries.

Engineers constantly seek strong, for use in cars and planes to improve . Their goal is to develop with a high "specific strength," which is defined as a material's strength divided by its density. In other words, specific strength measures how much load it can carry per unit of weight.

Researchers at NC State focused on magnesium alloys because magnesium is very light; on its own, though, it isn't very strong. In the study, however, the researchers were able to strengthen the material by introducing "nano-spaced stacking faults." These are essentially a series of parallel fault-lines in the of the alloy that isolate any defects in that structure. This increases the overall strength of the material by approximately 200 percent.

"This material is not as strong as steel, but it is so much lighter that its specific strength is actually much higher," says Dr. Suveen Mathaudhu, a co-author of a paper on the research and an adjunct assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State under the U.S. Army Research Office's Staff Research Program. "In theory, you could use twice as much of the and still be half the weight of steel. This has real potential for replacing steel or other materials in some applications, particularly in the transportation industry – such as the framework or panels of vehicles."

The researchers were able to introduce the nano-spaced stacking faults to the alloy using conventional "hot rolling" technology that is widely used by industry. "We selected an alloy of magnesium, gadolinium, yttrium, silver and zirconium because we thought we could introduce the faults to that specific alloy using hot rolling," says Dr. Yuntian Zhu, a professor of at NC State and co-author of the paper. "And we were proven right."

"Because we used existing technology, industry could adopt this technique quickly and without investing in new infrastructure," Mathaudhu says.

Explore further: Synthesis of a new lean rare earth permanent magnetic compound superior to Nd2Fe14B

More information: The paper, "Ultrastrong Mg-Alloy via Nano-Spaced Stacking Faults," was published online March 12 in Materials Research Letters.

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grondilu
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2013
Isn't magnesium a very reactive chemical element? (doesn't it react violently with water, for instance?)
Husky
5 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2013
if powdered, plates just like aluminum need a coating, there are high end magnesium tubings for bikes for some time now that offer light bike with highest vibration damping of all metals esuring smooth rides, i could see this new mag alloy be used in aerospace and competitive auto/bike sports applications. It wont be a replacement for steel, but rather fight for the same value added market as aluminum, i would like to see Glare composite panels for airplanes be made out of mag, as its 34% lighter by volume than aluminum. with its strength allmost up to par now, you might end up with 15-20% lighter glare panels, that really adds up on the skin of a jumbojet.
Mike_Massen
3 / 5 (4) Mar 13, 2013
grondilu sounded worried with
Isn't magnesium a very reactive chemical element? (doesn't it react violently with water, for instance?)
No, you are probably thinking of lithium or similarly reactive alkaline metals etc.
Magnesium metal can be safely handled even to the touch, I have done so myself now and then and there is no negative effect, though it is a fire risk in that if there is an ignition source close enough for long enough then it will burn in air until consumed. It can be quenched with water but only if the water is below boiling point ie. At water's boiling point a burning piece of magnesium can be inserted into the water/steam and it will continue to burn by stealing oxygen from the water vapour, which releases Hydrogen which also catches fire etc.

Some BMW engines have an internal magnesium casting surrounded by aluminium but with a steel cylinder liner probably grain oriented, makes for a very light engine - I think this is for a straight 6 on the 'Z' series..
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2013
Magnesium metal can be safely handled even to the touch, I have done so myself now and then and there is no negative effect
Good for you. Magnesium is common in many everyday items.
http://www.campmo...p;ci_kw={keyword}
http://en.wikiped...y_wheels
http://www.ehow.c...ers.html
http://www.harbor...593.html
"Staccato guitars were conceived in 1978 the first was cast in aluminium, all guitars after 001 were cast in magnesium alloy."

-etc.
ValeriaT
5 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2013
magnesium, gadolinium, yttrium, silver and zirconium
It would be expensive as hell...
packrat
3 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2013
magnesium, gadolinium, yttrium, silver and zirconium
It would be expensive as hell...


Not only expensive but also non repairable in the even of a fender bender...... Factories will be making throw away cars now...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2013
magnesium, gadolinium, yttrium, silver and zirconium
It would be expensive as hell...


Not only expensive but also non repairable in the even of a fender bender...... Factories will be making throw away cars now...
How do you figure? Magnesium can be welded
http://cdn.intech...loys.pdf

Parsec
not rated yet Mar 13, 2013
Isn't magnesium a very reactive chemical element? (doesn't it react violently with water, for instance?)

Aluminum is also very highly reactive with oxygen and water at high temperatures. Yet it has widespread use in industry.

Magnesium may have other properties that make it undesirable for industrial applications, but as work like this removes those limitations we move towards being able to use it industry wide.

But this alloy looks hideously expensive unless the gadolinium, yttrium and silver components make up a very small amount of the alloy.
Parsec
3 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2013
Dousing burning magnesium in ice cold water will NOT put it out. I have done this. The incredible heat from the magnesium boils the water fast enough that it continues to burn. The fire on the USs Oriskany on October 26, 1966 cost 44 sailors their lives because they tried to put out a magnesium flare fire with water from hoses.