IIT Madras develops light-weight alloy to replace steel, aluminium in cars

May 28,2020

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM), together with the University of North Texas and the US Army Research Laboratory, have produced a magnesium alloy with dramatically enhanced properties that can substitute steel and aluminum in automotive and aerospace parts.

The present industrial application of wrought magnesium alloys in structural elements is constrained because of their low or moderate strength. There has been a great deal of focus on reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles by using lightweight material in their bodies. Lighter vehicles consume less fuel to operate and thus play a strategic role in increasing energy efficiency. Vehicle pollution alone actually adds 27 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The research team also made progress in solving this issue by constructing a magnesium alloy of almost zero yield asymmetry and excellent ductility. The new engineered alloy is strong, highly ductile, and its super-plasticity is obtained at higher strain levels, which minimize total manufacturing time, effort, and cost. In addition, it is also lightweight, which helps to reduce the carbon footprint of vehicles. Lightweight vehicles need less fuel to run and are therefore more energy efficient.

Sushanta Kumar Panigrahi, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “In view of the compelling needs for economical usage of scarce energy resources and ever-stricter control over emissions to lower environmental impact, automotive and aerospace industries are searching for alternative advanced light-weight structural materials to existing conventional materials."

Magnesium alloys, one of the lightest and most energy-efficient structural materials, are prime candidates for the substitution of steel and aluminum alloys in vehicle and aerospace parts, with a density of two-thirds aluminum and one-fourth steel.

His research group also aims to improve the load-bearing capability of metals and alloys by microstructural engineering and metal processing. The team is set to apply the same processing strategy to other known magnesium alloys and metallic alloys with a view to obtaining highly efficient, stronger materials with superior performance.

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