Canada’s federal government unveiled plans to ban the use and sale of asbestos in the country by the end of the year. As described in an article on Mining.com, the regulations will prohibit the manufacturing, import, trade and use of most products containing the mineral, but they do not apply to the approximately 800 million tons of residue left from mining asbestos. A solution may be on the horizon in the form of a $12 million-investment in Alliance Magnesium, a company that has developed a method to extract magnesium from asbestos tailings. The company hopes to sell the metal to auto parts makers and aerospace manufacturers.
Magnesium is attracting interest in the automotive industry because of its light weight, strength, and castability. According to TotalMateria.com, magnesium (Mg) is 36% lighter per unit volume than aluminum and 78% lighter than iron. When alloyed, Mg has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of all the structural metals. Mg-Al-based alloys, especially the AZ and AM series, combine good room-temperature strength and ductility with satisfying salt-spray corrosion resistance and excellent castability.
Azo Materials reports that models of magnesium alloys have been developed by EPFL researchers to understand how to make the metal extra pliable. The goal is to discover new, more malleable alloys for lightweight, more fuel efficient car manufacturing.
Aerospace and automotive manufacturers are interested in magnesium because it is an abundant metal that is four times lighter than steel. However, pure magnesium has poor ductility and is difficult to form. Researchers at EPFL’s Laboratory for Multiscale Mechanics Modeling produced a model for predicting how the metal acts when mixed with varied elements to find out which type of alloy offers the deformation capacity required for industrial applications.
In a previous blog post, we discussed an article on phys.org that described another approach to using magnesium to create lightweight automotive metal. Researchers at NIMS and Nagaoka University of Technology developed a magnesium alloy that is lighter than steel and aluminum alloys. The alloy can be used to make a low cost, light weight sheet metal for automotive applications that has excellent formability compared to the aluminum sheet metal currently used in the body panels of some automobiles.
Many factors have to be scrutinized when trying to make a lightweight alloy. With each new material innovation comes potentially greater fuel efficiency, but also a new list of analytical challenges. With the multitude of alloys being used in the automotive industry, confirmation of chemical composition is critically important.
X-ray fluorescence (XRF) is a proven technology for the elemental analysis of specialty alloys to ensure the correct alloys are combined in the right percentages and the finished material meets precise manufacturing specifications. Portable XRF analyzers are indispensable tools for performing PMI of incoming raw materials, work in progress, and final quality assurance of finished parts because they can determine the elemental composition of a sample within seconds.