A new lightweight and very strong metal

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Engineers have developed a new superlight and very strong metal.

A team led by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has created a super-strong yet light structural metal with extremely high specific strength and modulus, or stiffness-to-weight ratio. The new metal is composed of magnesium infused with a dense and even dispersal of ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles. It could be used to make lighter airplanes, spacecraft, and cars, helping to improve fuel efficiency, as well as in mobile electronics and biomedical devices.


  • Tom Billings

    Very nice timing, when combined with finding Magnesium Sulfate in the Cerean salt deposits!

    If we also find Lithium in those salts, then we might make the recent Magnesium Lithium alloy, with a density of 1.44g/cc. We might find this is a useful combination with this SiC reinforcement. I don’t know if the Zinc in their alloy was crucial, or just the use of a normal magnesium alloy to begin the work with.

    Add these developments to the nano-architectured trusses that are being developed at CalTech, Los Alamos, and several other labs, and the mass of space-built structures of the future may have just taken another steep nose dive, to our great benefit!

  • Andy Hill

    Interesting article but gives no details about how much improvement was made or difficult the process was to achieve. Also makes no mention of whether this process can be scaled up from the laboratory to a more industrial size.

  • David Hollick

    Reardon Metal, perhaps. Everything else in the book seems to be happening, why not that?

  • Joe

    The ministry of science would never allow for it, until of course the stole its patent.

  • pzatchok

    It not really a new metal. Just a new form of an old metal.
    Just like concrete with foam particles in it to make it lighter.
    In this case they are infusing ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles into it.
    And what would carbide particles do to cutting tools? Cut the tool faster than the tool cuts this new metal.
    I machine ceramic material everyday. It destroys tool bits. I get about 5% of the tool life cutting ceramic vs aluminum. And even then I have to watch that tool bit very carefully. I get about 3 inches of penetration out of a carbide drill bit before its totally dull and rounded over.

  • Steve

    I am still waiting for Transparent Aluminum…….

  • PeterF

    Steve said: “I am still waiting for Transparent Aluminum…….”
    It already exists. They have used it as the nose cones for heat seeking missiles like the sidewinder for decades. Its very hard so it resists scratching when hit by sand particles during take offs and landings. Technically its a single crystal of aluminum oxide. Different impurities give the crystals different colors and they are more commonly known as gemstones such as sapphire, ruby, topaz, etc..

    My son pointed out that a problem with a magnesium alloy is the reactivity. They try to avoid it in satellite construction. Kind of the same reason they don’t sell replacements for the mag wheels on my 57′ Chevy. If a rim ever hits the pavement and ignites, hot rod becomes a literal description!

    They also avoid Zinc and Cadmium fasteners when thermal vacuum testing because of the electrically conductive outgassing.

  • Steve

    Thanks for that info Peter, I had no idea…..

    It’s even bulletproof (or as we in the field prefer “bullet-resistant” LOL)

    “…As a transparent armor material, it provides a bulletproof product with far less weight and thickness than traditional bulletproof glass. It has been dubbed Transparent aluminum (per Star Trek).[10] 1.6″ thick ALON armor is capable of stopping .50 BMG armor-piercing rounds, which can penetrate 3.7″ of traditional glass laminate.[11]…”

  • Richard Blakely

    This is an interesting technology. Perhaps, instead of magnesium, metals such as tin and silicon offer interesting advantages. For example, tin with silicon carbide nanoparticles could be super-solder. It could be used instead of brazing, perhaps. Silicon with silicon carbide nanoparticles could be a better semi-conductor, perhaps. It could improve solar cells by overcoming the brittle crystal-like property of silicon. Silicon with silicon-carbide nanoparticles might make its amorphous properties better, so that it can compete with crystalline silicon solar cells. Use of sheets of the material instead of vapor-deposition could make the material useful instead of crystal silicon.

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