Is Magnesium Viable for Production of Aircraft Parts?

Student competition analyzes how this ultra-light material can successfully be used in aerospace applications.

Birmingham City University
Stephen Brown, engineering manager at Meridian Lightweight Technologies United Kingdom, and Birmingham City University student Anna Kryzhanovska examine a magnesium component.Birmingham City University

The Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom and Saint Paul, Minnesota-based International Magnesium Association and Meridian — a Plymouth, Michigan-based magnesium manufacturer — are challenging students in a competition to showcase the potential uses of magnesium in the aerospace sector. Magnesium carries the benefits of being extremely lightweight, abundant and 100 percent recyclable. “Misconceptions” regarding the material’s flammability, however, have prevented magnesium from becoming viable in the aerospace market. The partners hope to change that through this competition.

“A lot of people still believe magnesium catches fire easily,” said Makhan Singh, development manager at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the Birmingham City University. “It doesn’t, but the myth still influences most people’s understanding, including engineers. Magnesium is one of the best metals in terms of flammability, because it dissipates heat across its body so well, whereas steel, for example, localizes the heat, sit it can get very hot much more easily.”

Students and teams from four faculties at the university will work with professional artists, designers, engineers, industrial partners and global organizations to produce prototypes containing the material that will be showcased to experts from the partnering organizations. The deadline for submissions is in April.

“A long-standing ban has been lifted for the use of high pressure magnesium die casting in aircraft seat construction, providing they meet strict performance standards, and we see this as an opportunity to work with aircraft seat manufacturers who may soon start using lightweight, new-generation magnesium alloys in their seats,” said Kellie Easton, HR manager at Meridian Lightweight Technologies United Kingdom. “This particular project with Birmingham City University, therefore, is pivotal in showcasing the wonderful benefits of magnesium to the aircraft industry by fusing engineers and the arts in a dynamic, creative and artistic manner.”