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Chinese scientists develop world’s lightest metallic structural material

By Zhang Huan (People's Daily Online)    11:36, February 22, 2017

A new magnesium-lithium alloy, now the world’s lightest metallic structural material, has been developed by Shaanxi Engineering Research Center for Magnesium-lithium Alloy, Shaanxi Daily reported on Feb. 21.

According to the center, the material possesses a density between 0.96 and 1.64 grams per cubic centimeter, depending on the application. Almost every piece of China’s first carbon dioxide monitoring satellite, launched on Dec. 22, 2016, utilized this ultra-light material, which was independently researched and developed by the center.

By adding lithium to metal magnesium, the alloy is made ultra-light and shock-absorbent. It also has excellent damping properties, low density, high specific stiffness and strength. Together, these traits can significantly improve a payload, reduce the weight of a satellite and lower launch costs.

The research center was approved by the Shaanxi Provincial Development and Reform Commission in 2011, and jointly constructed by Xi'an Sifang Superlight Materials Co., Ltd. and Professor Chai Donglang’s team from Xi'an Jiaotong University. It has independently developed three models of ultra-light magnesium-lithium alloys, drafted China's first national standards for lithium-magnesium alloy materials, and actively promoted the new alloy across scientific research and large-scale production. 

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