The pressing need of the transportation industry to produce lightweight vehicles with superior functional capabilities is driving the lightweight metal alloys penetration in the industry. CAFÉ regulations and growing demand for electric vehicles are pushing the automakers to adopt lightweight solutions. Aluminum and magnesium alloys are the most commonly used lightweight metals, followed by titanium and beryllium. Lightweight material can drastically reduce the overall weight of the vehicle, reduce CO2 emissions, improve fuel consumption, and are completely recyclable.
Aluminum alloys are used in many auto parts such as pistons, engine blocks, hoods, door frames, heat exchanger, and many more. It is estimated that by 2023 the consumption of high strength aluminum in the automotive industry will reach around 10,000 kilotons.
Automotive parts like car chassis are also being manufactured using aluminum. Recently Jaguar has manufactured aluminum chassis and body for it new model F-pace. Jaguar has also initiated its project ‘reality’ in which the new models of jaguar and land rover will be using recycled aluminum from their old vehicles.
The self-anticorrosion mechanism of aluminum is the key factor for selecting aluminum for the aerospace application. Many parts of an aircraft such as fuselage, winglets, inlet nacelle, seat back, door parts, strut structure, floor beams, spars and many more are made from aluminum alloys.
The use of aluminum alloys in rail transport and marine industry has drastically reduced the overall weight of ships, fast ferries, and trains. The 99 catamaran Francisco made from aluminum hull is the fastest ferry in the world with a top speed of 58 knots (107 km/h) and a load barring capacity of 1,000 passengers with 150 cars.
Magnesium is the lightest of all structural metal materials; it is 33% lighter than aluminum. Some of the major applications of magnesium alloys are in the automotive, electronics, aerospace & defense, and power tools. Globally, around USD 1,000 million worth of magnesium alloys were used in the automotive & transportation industry in 2018.
The vibration damping capacity of magnesium is beneficial in the automotive and aerospace applications. Magnesium alloys is mostly used in luxury vehicles, sports cars, and high-end SUVs. The demand for magnesium alloys is increasing in both, commercial and military aircraft. Magnesium alloys is also used in aircraft engines such as Rolls-Royce (RB-211, RRA-3000, and BR710), Pratt & Whitney PW-100/150 series, and Garrett AiResearch TPE331 engines for transmissions & structures and in integrated reduction gearboxes.
Magnesium has been the preferred material in all space structures and missiles. The liftoff weight reduction and resistance to extreme conditions are the main reasons for the use of magnesium alloys in these applications.
Titanium alloys are mainly used in the aerospace industry to produce rotors, compressor blades, heat shields, and engine cowlings and casings. Titanium accounts for around 15% in Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s empty weight. Titanium 6AL-4V is the most widely used alloy for aerospace applications. Titanium alloys are mainly manufactured by the Kroll process. The process is labor-intensive, which makes the cost of titanium very high.
Beryllium has a high Young’s modulus of 287 GPa and very low density. This makes beryllium an ideal choice for applications in the aerospace industry. Beryllium has a 50% higher rigidity than steel and 30% lesser density than aluminum. Beryllium is mainly used with copper. Copper-beryllium alloys are used in automobile anti-lock brake systems, airbag systems, and fire extinguisher systems. Beryllium is non-magnetic in nature and possesses non-sparkling properties. It makes beryllium suitable for the oil & gas industry, where it is used in various guidance systems and drilling sensors.