Steel Factory China
The new alloy could replace aluminium in vehicles and construction materials to provide a strong and light substitute. Reuters

A strong and light metal has been created by researchers at the Graduate Institute of Ferrous Technology (GIFT) at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea.

Made from an amalgam of steel, aluminum, carbon, manganese and nickel, the new alloy promises to be low-cost and readily available.

The researchers plan to collaborate with Korean steel major POSCO to trial forge the new alloy later on this year.

While commercialisation may take time, the lightweight version of steel that uses abundantly available material could see a new era of high-strength, lightweight steels taking over from aluminum in the production of fuel efficient vehicles and other construction systems.

Previous research into lightweight steel has focused on mixing in aluminum in varying proportions to reduce the density, and therefore the weight.

But increasing aluminum content in steel makes it vulnerable to fracture by affecting its ductility.

To overcome this, the research team at GIFT uniformly distributed nanometer-sized B2 inter-metallic compounds in and around the steel grain structure. Adding nickel helped overcome harmful effects of incorporating B2 into steel.

It also helped increase the ductility of the steel alloy.

Sturdier, lightweight and more ductile steel compounds can now be developed to overcome the problem of brittle alloys.

Strong materials have been made in labs including the "strongest material" two dimensional graphene which comes with high strength to weight ratio.

Carbyne, another from the carbon family has been a strong contender too. But in both cases synthesis is the problem.