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A specialized magnesium alloy, created by developers at the University of Waterloo, has proven benefits when compared to aluminum. It’s stronger, lighter, less expensive, and more flexible. The weight of this new alloy allows the car to use far less fuel than it would if constructed from a denser metal, producing fewer greenhouse gases overall.

Ford has put over one billion dollars into its research sector in hopes of creating lightweight vehicles that can be powered without the use of fossil fuels, and it’s not the only company trying. Fuel usage could be decreased by 80% simply by swapping out steel for magnesium, the most an ideal metal for creating environmentally friendly cars.

Magnesium isn’t very popular mainly due to its price, performance, and flexibility. If an ideal magnesium alloy can be created, however, those issues can be overcome. The five-year NSERC Magnesium Network program discovered that magnesium and zinc, when combined in the right quantities, offered a stable but ductile material. Added calcium and cerium only strengthened the alloy’s qualities.

The texture of the alloy was determined through the use of neutron beams, which probe far beneath the metal’s surface. Because the calcium and cerium were negatively affecting the alloy’s texture, the NSERC team heated and cooled the material to effectively harden its elements. This greatly improved the durability of the alloy, putting it into the figurative folder of future possibilities.

This year, the team is looking into other ways to make the magnesium-zinc alloy better for use in automobile manufacturing. If they can find a way to create a material that meets all industry standards, the world of cars as we know it could be forever changed.