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