A group of scientists from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has published a study in the journal Nature, detailing their success at developing an exceptionally strong but superlight metal that could be used for auto cars, airplanes, spacecrafts, and mobile electronics – making them much lighter and fuel efficient.
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The study was partly funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The new metal, better known as metal nanocomposite, contains 14% silicon carbide nanoparticles and 86% magnesium.
The new light structural metal is made up of magnesium filled with thick and wide amounts ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles. To make it extremely light but super-strong, the scientists developed a new technique for dispersing and stabilizing nanoparticles in molten metals.
“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,” said Xiaochun Li, the 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,” Li added.
Structural metals are manufactured to bear heavier loads – such as those used in vehicles and buildings. Magnesium was discovered to be only two-thirds the thickness of aluminum and found to be as great as the lightest structural metal available. Silicon carbide on the other hand is a very strong ceramic usually utilized in industrial cutting blades.
The excellent ability of the science research team to infuse a large amount of silicon carbide tinier than 100 manometers into magnesium infused the material with top stiffness, durability, plasticity, and 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,” Li noted.
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The researchers stated that magnesium is pretty much available everywhere, and mining it for industrial use in this regard will not impact negatively on the environment.