Researchers discover that adding arsenic to magnesium imparts corrosion resistance; “stainless magnesium”
19 August 2013
Researchers in Australia and Wales have discovered that alloying additions of arsenic to magnesium can impart significant corrosion resistance. Their discovery, reported in the journal Electrochemistry Communications, could have implications for light-weighting in the aerospace, automotive and electronics industries.
Weighing in at two thirds less than aluminium, magnesium is the lightest structural metal. It has many potential industrial applications, but uptake is severely restricted by its poor resistance to corrosion. Identification of methods to restrict magnesium corrosion is the first step in engineering such technology into functional alloys.
The researchers, led by Monash University’s Associate Professor Nick Birbilis, found that the addition of very low levels of arsenic to magnesium retards the corrosion reaction by effectively “poisoning” the reaction before it completes.
Once magnesium is available in a more stainless, or corrosion-resistant, form wider use will lead to significant weight and energy savings in transportation industries. It has been the subject of significant research efforts concentrating on developing light metals.
Associate Professor Birbilis, of the Monash Department of Materials Engineering, said the discovery would contribute to the birth of more stainless magnesium products by exploiting cathodic poisons.
In an era of light-weighting for energy and emissions reductions, there is a great demand for magnesium alloys in everything from portable electronics to air and land transportation. Magnesium products are rapidly evolving to meet the demands of industry, but presently are hindered by high corrosion rates. The arsenic effect we discovered is now being trialled as a functional additive to existing commercial alloys. Our breakthrough will help develop the next generation of magnesium products, which must be more stainless.—Associate Professor Birbilis
N. Birbilis, G. Williams, K. Gusieva, A. Samaniego, M.A. Gibson, H.N. McMurray (2013) Poisoning the corrosion of magnesium, Electrochemistry Communications, Volume 34, September 2013, Pages 295-298, doi: 10.1016/j.elecom.2013.07.021
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