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28th April 2021

Magnesium: A new frontier for industrial materials

Scientists are on the cusp of harnessing more environmentally-friendly magnesium alloys.
Magnesium: A new frontier for industrial materials
Eisenmenger @ Pixabay

Magnesium is a light, strong, abundant and electrochemically efficient element, making it very usable in numerous industrial areas, often as a catalyst. It has been involved in producing many things, from batteries to aircraft components and more recently as an effective and ecological anti-corrosive coating.

In this modern application, magnesium is used as an alloy. Alloys can be costly and time consuming to produce due to the complexity of the reactions involved to form a desired composition of metal. However, the Helmholtz centre for Materials, has shown that by melting pure magnesium and pure calcium at high temperatures into a traditional crucible, the alloy retains a lot of the pure magnesium properties. Yet, the calcium present is the secret of what makes this alloy exceptional.

Including small amounts of calcium has a profound effect on the kinetics of the material and produces a thin surface layer of film. Therefore, the alloy can better resist corrosion. Also, calcium stabilises any impurities in the alloy from other metals involved in production. This is particularly effective for electrochemical applications where magnesium is used as an electrode, and stabilises cycling of a cell, with a longer lifetime.

Due to the natural abundance of both magnesium and calcium in humans, it has no negative health impacts if used to coat implants or scaffolding. It also is seen as a more ecological and economic alternative in transport due to the alloys lighter molecular weight compared to steel and other modern materials. Using this new alloy would make cars and planes lighter and therefore more fuel economical. With the material more widely abundant and recyclable in society it would be more environmentally friendly compared to the current alloys and impurities they possess.

But this new alloy is still in its infancy. The actual intricacies of it being implemented into society has yet to be uncovered, however the future is still looking bright. So keep an eye out for this alloy on the side of cars, battery packs and possibly spaceships in the near future. Magnesium is definitely ready for the spotlight.

Blake Crompton

Blake Crompton

MChem Chemistry Student, Science consultant and contributor for the Music section. Born in Bolton and Living in Lancashire with a passion for Chemistry, underground music, gigs, satire, cooking and basic conversation. Hope you enjoy my work, Cheers

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