Materials

New alloy of steel created that's as strong and light as titanium

New alloy of steel created tha...
The GIFT development could lead to the new steel alloy replacing aluminum in lightweight, fuel-efficient automobiles and aircraft (Photo: Shutterstock)
The GIFT development could lead to the new steel alloy replacing aluminum in lightweight, fuel-efficient automobiles and aircraft (Photo: Shutterstock)
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The GIFT development could lead to the new steel alloy replacing aluminum in lightweight, fuel-efficient automobiles and aircraft (Photo: Shutterstock)
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The GIFT development could lead to the new steel alloy replacing aluminum in lightweight, fuel-efficient automobiles and aircraft (Photo: Shutterstock)

By altering metal alloy at a nanoscale level, researchers at the Graduate Institute of Ferrous Technology (GIFT) at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea have created a new material that has the strength of steel and the lightness of titanium alloy. Made from an amalgam of steel, aluminum, carbon, manganese, and nickel, the new alloy promises to be low-cost and readily available due to its mix of common minerals.

Previous research into lightweight steel has focused on mixing in aluminum in varying proportions to attempt to reduce the density, and therefore the weight. Unfortunately, upping the aluminum content in steel also badly affects its ductility (the way that a material behaves under tensile stress) which results in its increasing vulnerability to fracture.

In an attempt to rectify this major impediment to producing a practical lightweight steel, the research team at GIFT uniformly distributed nanometer-sized B2 intermetallic compounds (an amalgam of two metals with equal numbers of atoms) in and around the steel grain structure. though incorporating B2 into steel has been tried in the past, it has ordinarily been harmful to the structure. However, by adding nickel to the admixture, the team was able to take advantage of the addition of B2, while also helping to increase the ductility of the steel alloy.

As a result of this research, sturdier, lightweight and more ductile steel compounds may be developed, promising to alleviate the age old problem of brittle intermetallic compound alloys. In this vein, the researchers intend to collaborate with POSCO (formerly the Pohang Iron and Steel Company) to trial forge its new alloy later on this year.

It is still early days in this research, and no plans have been announced as to whether this will go beyond a trial commercial process level. But the concept of producing a lightweight version of steel using an abundant mineral such as iron – the base component of steel – could open up a raft of possibilities. Not the least of which may be a new era of high-strength, lightweight steels that may one day usurp aluminum in the production of fuel efficient vehicles and other construction systems.

Source: Pohang University

14 comments
Joseph Mertens
We will call this new steel Reardan Metal! But seriously excellent work!
MarylandUSA
For me, this is a timely article. I've just begun to read Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World (2014) by Mark Miodownik, a British materials scientist. Chapter 1 is about steel, including the improbable development of stainless steel.
Lewis M. Dickens III
Hmm, Joseph must be advocating a strike!
Noel K Frothingham
I was wondering how long it would take for a reference to 'Atlas Shrugged' to pop up.
ezeflyer
Why not just use titanium?
Jacob Shepley
ezeflyer, titanium is more expensive
Les.B.
This might be a good candidate for bicycle frames.
EH
Flash Bainite seems better: a quick heat treatment working on standard alloys, for instance tripling the strength of 4130 chrome-moly tubing to 1800MPA / 260kpsi while keeping 10% elongation, allowing it to be fabricated after treatment without cracking. http://www.gizmag.com/stronger-steel-in-a-flash/18882/
Gregg Eshelman
How about licensing the name "Vibranium" from Marvel comics?
Nik
This seems like a potentially very useful product, in all fields. If they can produce a 'stainless' version, even more so, the bane of steel is its susceptibility to corrosion. It would seem that the different metals and materials in this product would make it high susceptible to corrosion. My next thought is, will this inhibit its reuse/recycle ability, what special processes it would need to be reused, and what would be the result if this material was inadvertently mixed with traditional steel?