Australian researchers discover alloy that could open doors to stainless magnesium mass production

By @vitthernandez on
Professor Michael Ferry
Professor Michael Ferry is the lead researcher of a University of New South Wales study that discovered a magnesium-lithium alloy. University of New South Wales

Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia said that they have discovered an ultra-low density and corrosion-resistant magnesium-lithium alloy that is essential in the production of lighter automobiles and aeroplanes in the near future. The newly discovered magnesium-lithium alloy, which could pave the way for the mass production of stainless magnesium, weighs 30 percent lighter than regular magnesium and can be as light as aluminium.

“This is the first magnesium-lithium alloy to stop corrosion from irreversibly eating into the alloy, as the balance of elements interacts with ambient air to form a surface layer which, even if scraped off repeatedly, rapidly reforms to create reliable and durable protection,” said UNSW lead researcher Professor Michael Ferry.

But what makes it more appealing to technology experts is that it is seen as a perfect alternative to commonly used metals that are big carbon footprint contributors. This, according to Ferry, is the world's answer to producing less petrol-dependent automotive products in the future, as it could be essential in fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport vehicles.

“Many similar alloys have been created as researchers seek to combine the incredible lightness of lithium with the strength and durability of magnesium to develop a new metal that will boost the fuel efficiency and distance capacity of aeroplanes, cars and spacecraft,” Ferry added .

The balance of elements interacts with ambient air to form a surface layer which, even if scraped off repeatedly, rapidly reforms to create reliable and durable protection. The UNSW research was a direct answer to a 2013 research conducted by Professor Nick Birbilis of Monash University in which a method of reducing corrosion in magnesium alloy was found feasible by adding a dash of arsenic to the metal.

Ferry’s team admitted that they still have to spend more time at the Australian Synchrotron in Victoria to find more methods that could prove magnesium alloys’ capability to replace corrosion-sensitive metals on the market.

“We’re aiming to take the knowledge gleaned at the Australian Synchrotron to incorporate new techniques into the mass-production of this unique alloy in sheets of varying thickness, in a standard processing plant. These panels will make many vehicles and consumer products much lighter and, eventually, just as durable as today’s corrosion-resistant stainless steel, another example of how advanced manufacturing is unlocking the potential of materials that have been under investigation, in too narrow a manner, for centuries,” said Birbilis who was also involved in the recent study.

Magnesium has been enjoying so much attention these past few years as scientists and industry leaders are now seeing its capability to solve major industrial and market predicaments. Japanese clean energy company and fuel cell manufacturing giant in Asia Aqua Power Systems  ( OTCQB: APSI ) believes that magnesium’s overabundance should be utilised for the production of advanced but environment-friendly products.

Its latest technological invention, the Realistic Magnesium Air Fuel System (RMAF) which was embraced by Asian consumers and enjoyed rave reviews from various companies in Japan for its price and efficiency, has opened the doors for the production of “refuelable” batteries.

“Basically, our magnesium air fuel cell utilizes metal magnesium for the anode and oxygen from the air for the cathode. Salt water, additionally, is used for the electrolytic solution. The air-filter cathode is a unique component that is water shielding, allowing only oxygen to pass. Hence, it’s one environment-friendly technology for the environment-friendly consumers,” company president Tadashi Ishikawa said in a statement .

These RMAF-powered products are set to make its first North American market appearance next year right after the company secures the requirements including security and safety permits from various authorities. It will also be available in Europe and Africa soon.

If UNSW’s becomes successful in finding more fine-tuned methodologies in perfect the newly discovered magnesium alloy, and if Aqua Power’s RMAF technology begins to infiltrate the North American, European, and African market, there will surely be massive changes in the energy and metal manufacturing sector.

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