Magnesium in the 21st Century:
the Choice for Energy Efficiency in Transportation
Magnesium will become the material
of choice as designers strive to improve energy efficiency in transportation.
Magnesium and its alloys are being considered for structural applications in
every type of vehicle because of their favorable combination of tensile
strength, elastic modulus, and low density, according to ASM International, the
materials information society.
In the article "Magnesium in the 21st Century," Robert E. Brown of the Magnesium
Assistance Group Inc., Prattville, Ala., describes magnesium alloys as having
high strength-to-weight ratios and relatively good electrical and thermal
conductivity, as well as high damping capacity.
"Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, and the
third most plentiful element dissolved in seawater," Brown said. "Because
magnesium is found in seawater, it is available in almost limitless quantities:
A cubic mile of seawater contains six million tons of magnesium metal."
Magnesium as a structural material has been "up and down" during the 20th
Century, Brown explained. "As the world supply increases and a new legion of
energized researchers and scientists address the many aspects of the most
abundant structural metal, magnesium will again rebound to new heights. The
present trend indicates that China will be a major contributor to this
Two major magnesium alloy systems are available. The first includes alloys that
contain 2 to 10% aluminum, combined with minor additions of zinc and manganese.
These alloys are widely available at moderate cost, and their mechanical
properties are good at temperatures up to 95 to 120Â°C (200 to 250Â°F). However,
above these temperatures properties deteriorate rapidly.
The second group consists of magnesium alloyed with elements such as rare
earths, zinc, thorium, silver, and silicon (but not aluminum), all containing a
small but effective zirconium content that imparts a fine-grain structure (and
thus improved mechanical properties). These alloys generally possess better
elevated-temperature properties, but they are more expensive because of their
more costly elemental additions and specialized manufacturing technology.
Aluminum metal, which is not easy to get from its ores, has become a 30 million
ton per year business, while magnesium has struggled to reach about 800,000 tons
per year. "Realistically, world production must grow to over one million metric
tons per year if it is to be seriously considered for widespread applications,"
The largest amounts of magnesium will continue to be for aluminum alloying, but
Brown expects that it will continue to be needed for desulfurization of steel
"if the price is competitive." Interest in magnesium is growing in technologies
such as thixomolding, extrusions, sheet, and forgings. "Magnesium can also
provide huge provide huge structural and economic advantages in automotive and
aerospace applications, based on life cycle analysis,' Brown said.
"Magnesium in the 21st Century," a complete description of the current state of
the magnesium industry and future opportunities, can be accessed and downloaded
free of charge at www.asminternational.org/amp.
To access the article directly: http://asmcommunity.asminternational.org/static/Static%20Files/IP/Magazine/AMP/V167/I01/amp16701p31.pdf?authtoken=4311dfd366c81aa2e197c5b22c31baec3e4204c3
ASM International is Everything Material, the Ohio-based society serving the
materials science and engineering community. With 36,000 members worldwide. ASM
provides authoritative information and knowledge on materials and processes from
the structural to the nanoscale. For details, visit
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