Materials breakthrough set to benefit aerospace industry

In a breakthrough which could have major implications for the aerospace, automotive and electronics industries, scientists in the US have found a way to dramatically reduce the corrosion rate of lightweight wonder material magnesium.

Weighing in at two thirds less than aluminium, magnesium is the lightest structural metal in the world. While it has many potential industrial applications, uptake has, until now, been severely restricted due to its poor resistance to corrosion.

For the first time, researchers from Monash University in Australia have created a magnesium alloy with significantly reduced corrosion rates by adding a cathodic 'poison' - arsenic.

They found that the addition of very low levels of arsenic to magnesium retards the corrosion reaction by effectively 'poisoning' the reaction before it can complete.

Once magnesium is available in a more stainless, or corrosion-resistant form, the researchers believe wider use will result in significant weight and energy savings in transportation industries.

"This is a very important and timely finding," noted Associate Professor Nick Birbilis, of the Monash Department of Materials Engineering. "In an era of light-weighting for energy and emissions reductions, there is a great demand for magnesium alloys in everything from portable electronics to air and land transportation.

"The arsenic effect we discovered is now being trialed as a functional additive to existing commercial alloys. Our breakthrough will help develop the next generation of magnesium products, which must be more stainless."

Laura Hopperton

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