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Metallic lightweight

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Magnesium is the lightweight among metallic construction materials [Copyright: Hereon/C.Schmid]

Magnesium is the lightweight among metallic construction materials: It has a significantly lower density than steel or even aluminum - the latter is 50% heavier. Today magnesium is already used, for example in laptop housings and vehicle construction. So far, however, magnesium cannot be processed into sheet metal on a large scale. But to exploit the lightweight potential of magnesium in practical applications, it is necessary to produce large-area structures. These sheets can be formed into finished components, such as a car door. At the Helmholtz Center Hereon, the necessary know-how and the development of the required alloys and processes are available.

New alloys and processes

Experts are adding substances such as gadolinium, yttrium or neodymium to their alloys. These rare earth elements refine the microstructure and provide improved material properties. However, for ecological and economic reasons these elements should be replaced as far as possible. Researchers are therefore looking for alternatives and using calcium, for example. This appears not only to improve formability but also to reduce flammability.

At the same time, the researchers are developing processes that significantly simplify the production of the sheets while improving their quality. The twin-role casting process used by Hereon produces a thin metal strip that is rolled out into a sheet. This eliminates many steps in the traditional manufacturing route. The material should also be easily recyclable. The recycling of scrap is ecologically and economically worthwhile and leads to a considerable saving of resources.

Protective coating for light metal

Magnesium

At Hereon, new coatings and treatment processes are being developed to slow down and ideally prevent corrosion. [Copyright: Hereon/C.Schmid]

Magnesium has the tendency to corrode fast. This is particularly evident when the light metal is joined with other materials to form components. Contact corrosion easily occurs at the joints. At Hereon, new coatings and treatment processes are being developed to slow down and ideally prevent corrosion. Ceramic and polymer materials are used, which can be additionally optimized with inhibiting or/and self-healing properties.

Into the application with ease

Magnesiumbauteile aus verschiedenen PKW-Typen

So far, magnesium has mainly been used in the form of gear housings, engine parts, covers, seat elements, fittings or casings. [Copyright: Hereon/C.Schmid]

How can cars and airplanes become even lighter? Scientists at Hereon are researching the potential of magnesium as a lightweight material.

So far, magnesium has mainly been used in the form of gear housings, engine parts, covers, seat elements, fittings or casings. Future areas of application include the entire automotive, aircraft and technology sectors, and especially electronics, as components in the computer, camera and cell phone industries.

New alloys and processes will significantly expand the range of components. The scientists in the specific areas of Hereon have extensive facilities for this research: in addition to laboratories for the production of very small sample quantities, they operate casting and forming facilities on a semi-industrial scale. In addition, they have a wide variety of analysis and characterization methods as well as stress tests at their disposal.

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