Application Note: Lightweight Magnesium in Powertrain Components
High gasoline process, global warming, excessive reliance on imported oil from unstable regions of the world. All these concerns are driving scientists and engineers to look for solutions. Though such new technologies as hydrogen-powered automobiles seem like the Holy Grail, issues of infrastructure and consumer acceptance abound. Some focus on near-term solutions, such as improving fuel efficiency by reducing the weight of automobiles.
Magnesium alloys have demonstrated their ability to significantly reduce weight at acceptable automotive costs in many areas of the vehicle. However, the potential weight-reduction benefit for Mg has not been realized in powertrain components for three reasons: prohibitive alloy costs imposed by requiring the use of rare earth additions to achieve high-temperature creep resistance, limited powertrain design experience with Mg alloys, no long-term field validation or controlled-fleet testing data, and limited scientific infrastructure to develop the necessary understanding of Mg alloys and casting processes.
The United States Council for Automotive Research/Automotive Materials Partnership (USCAR/USAMP), a global partnership of the Big Three automobile companies and dozens of companies involved in alloy developments, primary ingot manufacturing, casting manufacturing, tool and die manufacturing, laboratory testing, and flow/solidification simulation modeling software, is pursuing a 4-year project known as the Magnesium Powertrain Cast Components Project, partially-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The aim of the MPCC project is to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of using lightweight magnesium in powertrain components and to establish state of the art technology with respect to high-temperature magnesium alloys. The ultimate objective is to enable automakers to achieve higher fuel efficiencies and lower consumer costs through component weight reduction (the goal is 20% mass reduction relative to current aluminum designs). The project focuses on resolving critical issues that limit the application of magnesium in automotive powertrain components, developing the science and technology necessary to implement a magnesium-intensive powertrain.
Flow Science has been a full participant in this project, providing both software contributions as well as technical support and modeling services. Lighter components can be directly related to less oil consumption, a worth relationship to pursue.