Magnesium alloys have long been favored for their strong yet lightweight properties. They are also easy to work with in manufacturing processes including die casting. The main drawback to the material is its susceptibility to corrosion. This presents a challenge for many industries in which corrosion resistance is crucial – including the automotive and aerospace sectors.
Recently, however, researchers have found that adding some arsenic to the alloy seems to “poison” the reactions that normally cause magnesium alloy corrosion. Specifically, by adding about one third of a percent of arsenic to the alloy, corrosion in a salt solution was reduced by a factor of about 10. The application is referred to as cathodic poisoning.
With the corrosion issue now under wraps, this opens the door to using newer alloys – stainless magnesium – in mainstream transportation functions. Though magnesium was commonly used for race car production in the 1920s, its use has declined due to its application-based weaknesses. But with a corrosion-resistant formulation, it’s very possible that we’ll see magnesium alloys regain a market segment that has since been taken over by other lightweight metals, including aluminum.
It will be interesting to watch as new manufacturing processes are developed to accommodate an even lighter, stronger, and more corrosion-resistant material for automotive and aerospace manufacturing. The breakthrough could lead to safer, more efficient transportation vehicles that can more easily weather the effects of the outside environment.