Spain backs magnesium-alloy research

A Spanish national consortium has been set up to research magnesium-based technologies for transport.

The MAGNO programme has a total budget of €30 million over four years to promote and develop new technologies based on magnesium (Mg) alloys.

CENIT, a Spanish acronym standing for Strategic National Consortium for Technical Research, is made up of 12 companies (four corporations and eight SMEs) and 11 technology centres. It is led by the Antolín Group, a leading multinational in the design and production of car interior components and modules. The high-tech investment programme is intended to give a boost to the metal industry in Spain.

Madrid Institute of Advanced Studies in Materials, IMDEA Materials will contribute to the consortium by carrying out research aiming to improve the mechanical behaviour at high temperature and high strain rate (shock conditions) of currently-used cast and forged Mg alloys, by optimising casting processes and by developing novel alloys with enhanced mechanical performance.

Magnesium is one of the lightest metals. Its low density, 1.7g/cm3, makes it a key material in reducing the weight of cars and it could replace certain parts made of steel (7.8g/cm3) or aluminium (2.7g/cm3). Moreover, it is found in abundance in the Earth's crust and is easy to recycle and machine. Its specific mechanical resistance is excellent, even exceeding that of steel.

Today, China is the largest producer of magnesium in the world and production costs have reduced dramatically, now being comparable to aluminium.

However, large-scale commercial use of magnesium in consumer vehicles is still some way off, as its mechanical resistance to high temperatures and corrosion has still not been improved sufficiently. For this reason, magnesium cannot be used to manufacture parts located on the vehicle exterior or in areas close to the engine. Furthermore, at present most parts are made through casting because, due to its hexagonal structure, magnesium is difficult to shape.

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