A highly strong but light metal has been created by the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, offering a material with a superior stiffness-to-weight ratio. The new metal could be used in the construction of airplanes, spacecraft and cars.

Researchers say they have developed a scalable manufacturing method to create the new metal, which is composed of magnesium and infused with ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles, according to a press release. The new research, published Saturday in the international journal Nature, describes the new method the team used to disperse and stabilize nanoparticles in molten metals.

"It's been proposed that nanoparticles could really enhance the strength of metals without damaging their plasticity, especially light metals like magnesium, but no groups have been able to disperse ceramic nanoparticles in molten metals until now," said Xiaochun Li, the lead researcher and Raytheon Chair in Manufacturing Engineering at UCLA. "With an infusion of physics and materials processing, our method paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kinds of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today's society."

In terms of structural metals, magnesium is the lightest in weight and two-thirds the density of aluminum. To improve durability of the magnesium-based metal, researchers infused a number of silicon carbide particles smaller than 100 nanometers into magnesium, which added to the metal’s strength, stiffness, plasticity and durability in high temperatures.


“The researchers' new silicon-carbide-infused magnesium demonstrated record levels of specific strength — how much weight a material can withstand before breaking — and specific modulus — the material's stiffness-to-weight ratio,” according to a press release. “It also showed superior stability at high temperatures.”

The new metal could be used to improve fuel efficiency and to build mobile technology, biomedical devices and other electronics.