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Researchers Create Superstrong Aluminum Alloys for Automotive, Aerospace Applications

The alloy is lightweight and possibly stronger than stainless steel, but it provides flexibility that stainless steel does not in many applications.
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Purdue University researchers have developed a super-strong material that may change some manufacturing processes for the aerospace and automobile industries.

The Purdue team, led by Xinghang Zhang, a professor in the university’s School of Materials Engineering, has created a high-strength aluminum alloy coating that has clear advantages for manufacturers in these industries.

“We have created a very durable and lightweight aluminum alloy that is just as strong as, and possibly stronger than, stainless steel,” Zhang says. “Our aluminum alloy is lightweight and provides flexibility that stainless steel does not in many applications.”

Yifan Zhang, a graduate student in materials engineering who is also on the Purdue team, says this alloy could be used for making wear- and corrosion-resistant automobile parts such as engines, as well as coatings for optical lenses on specialized telescopes in the aerospace industry.

The Purdue researchers created the aluminum alloy by introducing “stacking faults” or distortions in the crystal structure of aluminum. Such distortions can lead to so-called “nanotwins” and complex stacking faults, such as 9R phase, they say.

“The 9R type of stacking fault is usually rare in aluminum,” says Qiang Li, a doctoral student on the research team. “We introduce both twin boundaries and 9R phase within nanograins to the lightweight aluminum alloys that are both strong and highly deformable under stresses. Besides coating applications, we are also looking into scale up potentials of bulk high-strength aluminum alloys.”

The team also has created a way to develop the super-strong alloy coatings by introducing iron or titanium atoms into aluminum’s crystal structure. The resulting nanotwinned aluminum-iron alloy coatings have proved to be one of the strongest aluminum alloys ever created, comparable to high-strength steels, the researches say. Their findings were published recently in Advanced Materials and Scripta Materialia.

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization helped secure a patent for the technology, and it is available for licensing. For more information, click HERE.

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