Researchers Discover 'Exceptionally' Strong Lightweight Metal

UCLA researchers has come up with a new metal composed of magnesium infused with ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles. Like carbon fiber, the metal is foreseen as exceptionally strong.

For several years, carbon fiber technology has been an important theme in the automotive industry for its light yet sturdy material that paved the way for cars' fuel-efficiency and better performance due to the material's lightweight characteristics. However, the cost of carbon fiber and the ability to produce it in large volumes needed for mass-produced vehicles have limited its availability to a handful of car modification enthusiasts. With BMW's new Carbon Core technology showcased in the latest 7-series, this trend started to change.

Presently, a paper published in the scientific journal known as Nature stated that researchers from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering in California have come up with a new metal composition that is lightweight yet exceptionally strong like carbon fiber. The metal's composition consists of 86 percent magnesium infused with an even and dense 14 percent dispersal of ceramic silicon carbide particles.

Magnesium is already being used in cars because of its lightweight characteristics, but this technology is not yet solid. In comparison, the newly discovered metal has a favorable weight-to-toughness ratio known in scientific circles as the modulus. Initial testing has shown record levels of how much weight the new metal can withstand before its breaking point. It is also foreseen as durable in extreme temperatures.

This recently discovered metal composition makes it ideal for building infrastructures, airplanes, cars, and even spaceships. This could also be beneficial in biomedical devices and in the mobile electronics industry. The materials that compose the new metal are common but the real challenge was finding a way to disperse and stabilize the nanoparticles while infusing it to magnesium in its molten state.

In addition, the UCLA researchers state that they have also developed an accessible manufacturing method which applies to other materials aside from magnesium. However, this could take years before the society can see such lightweight and tough materials used in the automotive industry, as the researchers have concluded that this innovation have only just begun.

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