“A new alloy is as good as titanium at a tenth of the cost” – Business Insider, 8 February 2015

South Korea-based scientist Dr. Hansoo Kim and his associates at the Pohang University of Science and Technology have created a new alloy by reconfiguring steel by a few nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Though the manipulation occurs on the smallest of scales, it creates an alloy that is as durable and light as titanium alloys but more economical.

Steel is continuously on the decline; now that President Obama has mandated that car fuel economies double by 2025, the US automotive industry has been working with big-name aluminum companies like Novelis and Alcoa to manufacture car parts. The aerospace industry is also experiencing the same push towards aluminum, since steel — although inexpensive and sturdy — remains a heavier metal. The percentage of steel made parts in cars has dropped from 68.1 percent in 1995 to 60.1 percent in 2011. Now that Ford is working on its new generation of all-aluminum F-150s, you can imagine that those numbers have dropped even further.

Dr. Kim took it upon himself to create a new alloy that still uses steel, but also employs a few other lighter metals. The combination he discovered to be the best is iron, aluminum, carbon, steel, and nickel. Without nickel, Kim found the alloy too fragile; however, adding the nickel allows for a reaction to occur between the nickel and aluminum to make new nanometers that bind more efficiently with the steel. The crystals that the nickel create prevent the alloy from fracturing.

The new alloy uses a combination of relatively cheap materials, which means it can still be cheap to purchase on an industrial scale. Fueled by global innovations, it’s only a question of how long before light metals like aluminum, magnesium, and now titanium will start  dominating as the material of choice for automobile production.

(From Business Insider)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 8, 2015

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“Novelis Invests $48M in Automotive Aluminum Scrap Recycling Facility” – Environmental Leader, 30 January 2015

Last month, Novelis revealed that it has invested $48 million in its automotive aluminum scrap recycling facility. Novelis, the world’s largest flat-rolled aluminum maker, has recently entered the automotive industry by producing parts for auto companies that are shifting from steel to all-aluminum bodies. Novelis currently produces the aluminum that is used for the body and engines in Ford F-150 trucks.

The automotive aluminum scrap recycling facility employs a “closed loop” system, which will allow Novelis to reuse 20 million pounds of scrap every month. When the company manufactures aluminum coil, around 40% of the coil remains from the parts. Using the closed loop system, Novelis will gather the scrap and bring it back to the factory floor, where it will be reused again.

US automakers have been required to switch from steel to aluminum to comply with President Obama’s mandate that new cars must double their fuel economies by 2025. Ford F-150′s are now lighter — aluminum parts have already advanced the trucks’ fuel efficiency by 30 percent. Ford is slated to manufacture 850,000 of the trucks, which will call for 350,000 tons of aluminum sheeting.

In order to fill the supply gap for the automotive aluminum sheet market, several US and global producers have announced building of either greenfield construction or brownfield  expansions — mostly in new Detroit and southern states like Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

This trend will provide several business challenges and opportunities to gather, sort, and manufacture aluminum sheet alloys from recycled post-consumer scrap, including UBC, and will hopefully use recycle-friendly alloys.

(From Environmental Leader)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 8, 2015

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“This company invented a better soda can. Why isn’t anybody buying?” – Grist, 30 October 2014

Less than a year after introducing the evercan, Novelis broke ground on a new multimillion dollar plant in Germany to manufacture the cans, which are made of 90 percent recycled aluminum. Novelis thought the evercan was a win-win for the company: the cans are cheaper to produce and more sustainable for the environment, since far less energy is used to produce recycled aluminum than virgin aluminum, a minimum of five percent.

With such advantages, it seems that the large beverage companies — Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, MillerCoors, etc. — would be chomping at the bit to get their hands on the evercan; however, these companies aren’t buying. The only company currently using the evercan is Georgia-based micro-brewer Red Hare Brewing Co. What’s even more odd is that Novelis’ aluminum supply is being purchased in spades by top automobile companies Ford and GM for their new lines of all-aluminum body cars.

But it seems that the beverage industry’s preferences are elsewhere. Besides the beverage companies’ hesitance to rely on one aluminum supplier, many of the companies, such as Coca-Cola, prefer PET plastic bottles to cans. Coca-Cola uses a bottle called a “plantbottle,” which is a PET bottle produced from sugar cane and sugar cane waste. The plantbottle makes up 60 percent of Coca-Cola’s worldwide sales. Moreover, the plantbottle is also resealable, which is a bonus for consumers.

Environmentally undesirable land filling, for obvious reasons, is a total waste of energy and valuable raw materials. Exporting lower value scrap is another way to export energy and valuable elements embedded in post-consumer aluminum products, only to come back to the US as more value added semi and fully finished products. This would adversely affect US trade balance.

Furthermore, economic incentives and societal consumer awareness supported by numerous newer scrap sorting technologies under development should limit land filling of scrap in US and reduce scrap export to countries like China.

If one beverage company vouches for the evercan, then perhaps other companies would follow suit. But more than that, the industries directly involved in recycling — aluminum, beverage, and waste — need to bolster their recycling actions so that Novelis has more material to work with.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 2, 2014

Phinix LLC

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“Alcoa, Novelis face new competition as aluminum gains in auto segment” – Automotive News, 19 June 2014

While it seems that Alcoa and Novelis have become the two major players in the automotive industry’s steel overhaul, other aluminum companies—Constellium NV, Aleris Corp., and Wise Metals Group—are also surfacing to become a part of the car industry’s shift to aluminum. Dutch-based aluminum manufacturer Constellium is breaking ground on a body sheet plant in the US, and Aleris and Wise Metals are thinking of doing the same. Constellium currently supplies to Volkswagen, while Aleris works with Audi and Mercedes.

Though there certainly will be competition among the aluminum companies, there seems to be more than enough work to go around. Fabricating aluminum car parts will likely grow into a $10 billion industry in the next ten years, with demand likely to grow 40 percent in that same time frame. While Novelis and Alcoa have already begun on production with US car companies, it will be a few years before competing aluminum companies begin production.

via Wall Street Journal

via Wall Street Journal

Car manufacturers have finally realized the benefits of all-aluminum bodied cars. Though an expensive investment, the lighter metal improves fuel efficiency, allows for cars to stop and start faster, and allows trucks to carry heavier objects. The major push came from Obama, when he mandated that new cars must double their fuel economies by 2025.

Alcoa has been ahead of the game for awhile. Fifteen years ago, the company invented A951, an invisible coating that creates stronger and sturdier bonds between aluminum parts. Alcoa patented the product, but was then asked by Ford to share the licensing with other aluminum companies. Car companies are working with different aluminum companies to supply parts, so as not to create a monopoly supplier. Alcoa gladly complied.

Related:
Aluminum Cars Take Heat from ArcelorMittal’s CEO
GM Secures Aluminum for Trucks
Will All-Aluminum Cars Drive Metals Industry?

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

July 2, 2014

Phinix LLC

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