UCLA Scientists Create New Super Strong Yet Lightweight Metal

Posted: Dec 24 2015, 7:44am CST | by , Updated: Dec 24 2015, 11:03am CST, in News | Latest Science News


UCLA Scientists Create Super Strong and Lightweight New Metal
New strong metal made of magnesium with silicon carbide nanoparticles. Credit: UCLA Scifacturing Laboratory

The new metal can be used for making lighter airplanes, spacecrafts, cars and electronic devices.

Researchers from UCLA have created an extremely light yet super-strong new metal. The new metal is made up of soft magnesium and tiny grains of silicon carbide, which can be bonded into hard ceramics and it can be used for making lighter airplanes, spacecrafts, cars and electronics as well as medical devices. 

To create this super-strong, lightweight metal, researchers for the first time have found a way to scatter and stabilize dense nanoparticles in melted metals. 

“It has 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,” said Xiaochun Li, lead investigator of the research.

“With an infusion of physics and materials processing, our method paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kind of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today’s society.”

The construction of building and vehicles require strong material that can bear the load. Magnesium is one of the most flexible and lightest metals with just two-thirds the density of aluminum. Silicon carbide, on the other hand, is an ultra hard ceramic. By combining silicon carbide particles into magnesium, researchers created a new unique metal that is not only incredibly strong but stretchy and durable as well.

It has been long thought that ceramic particles can make metals stronger. Though, with microscale particles, metal becomes strong but lose its plasticity. But nanoparticles, by contrast, not only enhance strength of a metal but can maintain or even improve their plasticity as well.

The biggest challenge was probably how to disperse the particles evenly. Tiny particles tend to form clusters as they attract each other more.

To solve this problem, researchers dispersed the particles into molten magnesium zinc alloy where they remained scattered by virtue of being motion. 

The new metal is about 14% silicon carbide and 86% magnesium. The new metal is already quite strong and durable but researchers are developing another manufacturing method to improve its performance and capacity.  

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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