Editorial Feature

Magnesium Alloys: Trends, Applications, and New Technologies

Magnesium (Mg) is renowned for being a lightweight metal that is extensively used in various engineering applications. It constitutes about 2.7 % of the Earth’s crust, making it the eighth most abundant material globally.

Magnesium Alloys: Trends, Applications, and New Technologies

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This article was updated on 8 July 2024

Its low density and high specific strength (approximately 130 kNm/kg) make it an excellent choice for industrial applications. Mg ranks third in usage as a structural material after steel and aluminum and is the most reactive among engineering materials.1

Current Market Dynamics

Mg is vital to the global economy, with a market size estimated at slightly over USD 4.3 billion in 2021. Experts project that the global Mg market will reach USD 6.4 billion within the next five years. Mg's widespread use in the automotive, aircraft, and manufacturing sectors underscores its economic importance.

Several factors influence Mg prices and the global market. Controlling about 85% of the worldwide supply, China's production significantly impacts pricing trends and supply dynamics. Chinese companies have maintained low Mg prices, hindering new market entrants and solidifying China’s market position.2

Disruptions in Chinese manufacturing processes or policies can lead to substantial price fluctuations and supply chain disturbances.3 For example, a production slowdown in China due to high coal prices and energy rationing led to record magnesium prices and significant global supply chain distortions.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 2022 reported that only one U.S. company produced Mg via an electrolytic process, extracting it from the Great Salt Lake brines. The primary use of Mg metal, accounting for 45 % of consumption, was in castings, primarily for the automotive industry.4

From 2017 to 2021, the production of magnesium in the United States steadily decreased from 112 thousand metric tons to 98 thousand metric tons. During the same period, the annual average price of magnesium increased from $2.15 to $3.90 per pound.4

Secondary magnesium from old scrap collected in the U.S. amounted to about 29,000 tons in 2021, with 57 % recovered from aluminum-base alloys and 43 % from magnesium-base castings, ingots, and other products.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in 2023 stated that the continuation or recurrence of material injury is likely if the existing antidumping duty on pure Mg from China is revoked. Thus, the order on imports from China remains in place.5

Application and Growth Areas

Despite the availability of various metals and polymers, Mg remains popular due to its superior properties, such as improved thermal and electrical conductivity, shock and vibration absorption, and damping attributes.

During World War II, Mg was used in military aircraft construction and components. Today, it continues to be used in aircraft engine transmission castings and landing gears. Recent efforts to address Mg's flammability have increased its use in airplane cabins.

In the automotive sector, Mg is used in powertrains, chassis, and body structures, ranking third among metallic materials used in the industry. Alloy cast Mg is in high demand due to its superior qualities. Applications include instrument panel structures, cross-car beams, roof frames, and seat frames, especially in areas where weight reduction is crucial.6

High-pressure die-casting (HPDC) is a popular method for producing industrial-grade Mg alloys due to its superior surface quality. Mg-Rare Earth-based alloys have shown significant advancements in heat resistance, with superior high-temperature properties compared to other magnesium systems.

A newly developed HPDC Mg-RE-based alloy has demonstrated excellent heat resistance, with a tensile strength of 229 MPa at 200 °C and a minimum creep rate of 1.76 × 10−10 s−1, which is a significant improvement over other Mg alloys. This makes it suitable for high-temperature applications in the automotive and aerospace sectors.6

New Sources and Production Technologies

Located 150 km southeast of Melbourne, Latrobe Magnesium (ASX: LMG) has finalized the construction and commissioning of its 1,000-tons-per-annum Stage 1 demonstration plant. The plant is designed to convert environmental waste products into Magnesium Oxide (MgO) for use in various industries.

Latrobe Mg's patented hydrometallurgical extraction and thermal reduction technology is the only process capable of extracting Mg from brown coal fly ash and ferro-nickel slag tailing feedstocks. This novel, sustainable process converts waste products into reusable Mg metal.7

Governments have realized the importance of Mg and have started to use mining to produce this precious metal. Verde Magnesium, a mining company, has decided to invest a significant $1 billion in Romania.

Governments have recognized the importance of Mg and are investing in mining to produce this valuable metal. Verde Magnesium, a mining company, plans to invest $1 billion in Romania to revive a Mg mine closed ten years ago.

Approved by the Romanian government, this mine could become the first new European Mg metal project in decades, potentially producing up to 90,000 tons annually, meeting around 50 % of the European Union's demand. This initiative is crucial for reducing dependency on China for Mg.8

In addition to new projects, innovative manufacturing and production processes for Mg alloys are being researched. Recently, a new alternative to conventional additive manufacturing techniques for Mg alloys was introduced, involving a specialized weaving process using Mg wires. With optimized microstructures, these wires enable high-throughput manufacturing and create porous architectures optimized for stiffness and porosity through topology optimization.9

Using ZXM100 wires, researchers fabricated 3D woven Mg scaffolds with controlled porosity and pore size.9 These scaffolds were coated with polylactic acid (PLA) using a dip-coating approach, significantly improving bending strength and enhancing the mechanical properties of the final magnesium product.

Scientists are also leveraging digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to design Mg alloys with improved corrosion resistance. With a focus on sustainable Mg production, experts aim to establish Mg as a crucial metal for future automotive and aerospace industries.

In the future, we can anticipate more novel, cost-effective methods of Mg production and new Mg alloys for biomedical applications.

More from AZoM: Sustainable Materials in the Automotive Industry: Leading Innovators

References and Further Reading

[1] Prasad, S,. et al. (2022). The role and significance of Magnesium in modern day research-A review. Journal of Magnesium and alloys. doi.org/10.1016/j.jma.2021.05.012

[2] Coyne, J. (2022). Magnesium market highlights continuing fragility of global supply chains. [Online] ASPI. Available at: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/magnesium-market-highlights-continuing-fragility-of-global-supply-chains/ (Accessed on June 08, 2024)

[3] Shanghai Metal Market (2024). The Impact of Magnesium Prices on the Global Market. [Online] Shanghai Metal Market. Available at: https://news.metal.com/newscontent/102722083/The-Impact-of-Magnesium-Prices-on-the-Global-Market (Accessed on June 07, 2024)

[4] U.S. Geological Survey. (2022). Magnesium Metal. [Online] USGS. Available at: https://pubs.usgs.gov/periodicals/mcs2022/mcs2022-magnesium-metal.pdf
(Accessed on June 08, 2024)

[5] United States International Trades Commission. (2023). USITC Makes Determination In Five-Year (Sunset) Review Concerning Pure Magnesium From China. [Online] United States International Trades Commission. Available at: https://www.usitc.gov/press_room/news_release/2023/er0426_63837.htm (Accessed on June 09, 2024]

[6] Bai, Y., et al. (2022). New HPDC Mg-RE based alloy with exceptional strength and creep resistance at elevated temperature. Materials Science and Engineering. doi.org/10.1016/j.msea.2022.142921

[7] Innovation News Network. (2024). Latrobe Magnesium: Demonstrating sustainable magnesium production from fly ash. [Online] Innovation News Network. Available at: https://www.innovationnewsnetwork.com/demonstrating-sustainable-magnesium-production-from-fly-ash/48203/ (Accessed on June 10, 2024)

[8] Mining. (2024). Verde Magnesium granted mining rights in Romania. [Online] Mining. Available at: https://www.mining.com/verde-magnesium-granted-mining-rights-in-romania/ (Accessed on June 10, 2024)

[9] Yang, Y., et al. (2023). Research advances of magnesium and magnesium alloys worldwide in 2022. Journal of Magnesium and Alloys. doi.org/10.1016/j.jma.2023.07.011

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Article Revisions

  • Jul 8 2024 - This article was updated on 8th July 2024
Ibtisam Abbasi

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Ibtisam Abbasi

Ibtisam graduated from the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. During his academic career, he has worked on several research projects and has successfully managed several co-curricular events such as the International World Space Week and the International Conference on Aerospace Engineering. Having won an English prose competition during his undergraduate degree, Ibtisam has always been keenly interested in research, writing, and editing. Soon after his graduation, he joined AzoNetwork as a freelancer to sharpen his skills. Ibtisam loves to travel, especially visiting the countryside. He has always been a sports fan and loves to watch tennis, soccer, and cricket. Born in Pakistan, Ibtisam one day hopes to travel all over the world.


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