New and Improved- Light Weight Steel

Steel, one of the most prominent metals used in the construction and manufacturing industries, is well known for its strength, ductility, and durability. One issue when it comes to using steel is its weight. Often times light weight steels have a weakened durability and are much less flexible than traditional steel alloys. That’s why researchers at the University of Warwick have been working to design a more durable and flexible lightweight steel alloy. Recently, the research team had a breakthrough in controlling the undesired qualities most light weight steels possess.

New Processing Method

Dr. Alireza Rahnama, a researcher at the University of Warwick, has developed a new processing method for light weight steel alloys that maintains the materials strength, durability, and flexibility, a seemingly impossible task until now. The team used a Fe-Mn-Al-C steel alloy for its many mechanical properties such as its low density, corrosion resistance, and low cost. This common alloy is often used in manufacturing industries and is nothing new, but what is different is the way the materials are processed. She explains how the updated process works stating, “The new processing route is a simple heat treatment at a temperature between 900 °C to 1150 °C for a duration of 30 minutes, following by a fast cooling to ambient temperature. This annealing leads to the transformation of coarse stringer bands of B2 to nano-sized disk-like B2”. B2 refers to the second brittle phase that occurs in these steels, which limits steels ductility and makes them difficult to roll. K-cabide also limits the steels ductility and reduces its flexibility. Dr. Rahnama and her team found that annealing at these high temperatures makes it easier to control the two brittle phases and allows the k-cabide phase to be removed completely. This processing method is relatively simple and can easily be done in large scale production applications.

Benefits and Applications

One of the main applications this new and improved light weight steel could be used for is in the car manufacturing industry. Dr. Rahmana hopes that this new processing method can help manufacturers to form and design car parts into more desirable and streamlined shapes. This light weight steel could lead to more environmentally friendly vehicles by improving energy efficiency by reducing the weight of the vehicle. Using this light weight and more malleable steel can make cars safer, emit less CO2, and consume less fuel. The future applications and benefits of this new and improved light-weight steel alloy manufacturing process are abundant and can be used to improve several industries.