New super-strong, lightweight metal created

New super-strong, lightweight metal created

By eeNews Europe

Composed of magnesium infused with ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles, the new super strong yet structurally light metal demonstrates record levels of specific strength (how much weight a material can withstand before breaking) and specific modulus (a material’s stiffness-to-weight ratio), as well as superior high-temperature stability. According to the researchers, the metal "could be used to make lighter airplanes, spacecraft, and cars, helping to improve fuel efficiency, as well as in mobile electronics and biomedical devices."

The researchers created the metal by overcoming a longstanding challenge of finding a way to disperse and stabilize nanoparticles in molten metals. They also developed a scalable manufacturing method that could be used for creating more high-performance lightweight metal composites.

"It’s been proposed that nanoparticles could really enhance the strength of metals without damaging their plasticity, especially light metals like magnesium, but no groups have been able to disperse ceramic nanoparticles in molten metals until now," says Xiaochun Li, principal investigator on the research and Raytheon Chair in Manufacturing Engineering at UCLA. "With an infusion of physics and materials processing, our method paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kinds of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today’s society."

The researchers dispersed the nanoscale ceramic particles into a molten magnesium zinc alloy, using the kinetic energy in the particles’ movement to stabilize the dispersion and prevent them from clumping together. They then used a technique called high-pressure torsion to compress the metal to further enhance its strength.

"The results we obtained so far are just scratching the surface of the hidden treasure for a new class of metals with revolutionary properties and functionalities," says Li.

The new metal nanocomposite is about 14% silicon carbide nanoparticles and 86% magnesium. Since magnesium is an abundant resource, say the researchers, scaling up its use would not be environmentally damaging. For more, see the paper published in the journal Nature: "Processing and properties of magnesium containing a dense uniform dispersion of nanoparticles."

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