How can the price of building industrial towers be lowered without compromising integrity? Or yet, how can the cost of everyday steel-constructed amenities be lowered? Easy, don’t use steel.
Earlier this month the Pohang University of Science and Technology led by materials scientist Hansoo Kim has discovered a super strong element, which can be as cheap and as light as steel, however, when prepared correctly, be just as strong as titanium.
Kim has discovered the key to ensuring the strength of the new mix lies within the B2 crystal.
It was also discovered that if the atoms of aluminium and iron (B2) could be more evenly dispersed, they would not form such a strong bond with the each other, ensuring the crystals would not become brittle ‘veins’, as can regularly occur, as outlined by Popular Mechanics.
According to the Pohang University of Science and Technology research team, the way of ensuring this separation is to add small amounts of nickel to the alloy, subsequent to which the alloy needs to be heat-treated and thinly rolled.
This process would allow scientists to control exactly where the B2 crystals would form.
If all steps are followed precisely, the alloy would be 13 per cent less dense than regular steel, however, it would equal the strength of titanium.
This will hopefully be the start of a new era of stronger buildings, bridges and even phones or cars.
The new material is flexible, ultra-strong and has the same strength-to-weight ratio as titanium, but at a significantly lower cost. This would make the new alloy extremely popular with car manufacturers, as it would reduce production costs significantly.
Previously, Soviet scientists in the 1970s discovered how to mix aluminium and steel to create an exceptionally strong, yet lightweight alloy – however it was very delicate.
Whenever excessive weight was applied, it simply snapped into pieces. According to the scientists, the problem revolved around the metallic crystallisation occurring when the alloy was forming.
Is it possible that we will be seeing buildings made of this new ‘super steel’ anytime soon? Probably not, given the early stages of the discovery.
Unfortunately, mass-produced steel is protected from the elements with a layer of silicate, which cannot be used on Kim’s newest discovery.
Therefore a different protection method will need to be invented to protect the newest member of the metal family. However, it is anticipated that once the protection method is uncovered, the super steel will be the newest face of buildings, bridges, phones and cars - the opportunities are endless.