Materials

Super Magnesium alloy: Lighter than aluminum and cheaper than carbon fiber

Lightweight drone parts made from Allite Super Magnesium
Lightweight drone parts made from Allite Super Magnesium
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Lightweight drone parts made from Allite Super Magnesium
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Lightweight drone parts made from Allite Super Magnesium
Allite Super Magnesium: drop-out part
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Allite Super Magnesium: drop-out part
Allite Super Magnesium: bicycle frame
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Allite Super Magnesium: bicycle frame
Allite Super Magnesium: bicycle suspension linkage
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Allite Super Magnesium: bicycle suspension linkage
Allite Super Magnesium: lightweight bicycle stem
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Allite Super Magnesium: lightweight bicycle stem
Allite Super Magnesium: lightweight bicycle frame
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Allite Super Magnesium: lightweight bicycle frame

The creators of a new high-strength, low-weight metal alloy hope it will find a place as a midpoint between carbon fiber and lightweight aluminum. Allite Super Magnesium, an alloy previously only available to military and aerospace but now being targeted at a range of other applications, is lighter and stiffer than aluminum, but not as expensive as carbon fiber.

Allite hopes its new magnesium alloys, which are officially launching at next week's Interbike cycling expo in Reno, will create a niche somewhere beneath carbon fiber in the lightweighting world.

While each of the three alloys – AE81, ZE62 and WE54 – has its own specific strengths (weldability, forgeability and high temperature work, respectively), they're all highly resistant to corrosion, fatigue and wear, with excellent hardness and electrical insulation properties, according to the manufacturer. And they're the only magnesium alloys on the market that will melt, instead of burning, under a 1,200° F (650° C) flame.

Allite Super Magnesium: lightweight bicycle frame
Allite Super Magnesium: lightweight bicycle frame

In terms of weight, they're around 20 percent more dense than a good carbon-epoxy composite, but about 33 percent less dense than aircraft-grade 6061-T6 aluminum. Mind you, it's difficult to say exactly how much heavier or lighter a particular part could end up being, due to each material's differing properties.

Allite claims these new alloys also have "the lowest carbon footprint of any structural material throughout the value chain," as well as being abundant and 100 percent recyclable.

The company says it's had these alloys in development since 2006, but they'd "only been authorized for use in classified defense and aerospace applications … until now." It'll be interesting to see how bike manufacturers make use of them. In addition to bicycle components, Allite says they're suitable for everything from sporting goods and drones, to locomotive engine components, and even smartphone exteriors.

Source: Allite

14 comments
Brian Smith
It should be noted that the “... electrical insulation properties.” that was referred to in the article applies only to the ceramic coating they offer not the magnesium alloy metal itself.
rahul
Melting at 650 degrees... within striking range of 3D printing Opens up lots of possibilities
Bob Stuart
This can't have the high specific stiffness of Carbon fibre, since rigidity in engineering metals is all proportional to the density, which is given, but it would be nice to have some indication of it's strength and toughness.
EZ
I'm curious as to how and why "our" military has the right to take inventions from people and prevent them from selling rights to the general public. Anybody?
f8lee
@EZ - in the interest of national security perhaps?
Altairtech
@EZ, the military has "restricted" thousands of materials & products from reaching us, even if those products have been developped by civilian companies. All this under the pretext of "National Security". We have been deprived from much more efficient innovations like stronger magnets, much better batteries, better solar cells, better materials, new energy sources (free energy), etc... All this to keep the populations under leash, to limit our evolution. Sickening!
Joshua Tulberg
@EZ: Because they can write a bigger paycheck perhaps?
akarp
@EZ: if our government gives grants for development, there may be restrictions on sale. Also, some materials, products, or IP have restricted sales due to 'National Security'. Some of this is definitely needed...however, it seems like everything in the US is being ‘hijacked’ from original intentions to help a select few interest groups. 'Merica!
Mark in MI
If a branch of the military or Darpa paid for development, then can restrict it's use to their own needs if they want.
MartinVoelker
Neighbors of mine (a lesbian couple) continue to win bicycle races on a Colorado made magnesium frame tandem that is insanely light weight: go girls! But what would be really interesting to learn is whether this material is easier to work with for mass manufacturing than carbon fiber.