Refiner master for magnesium alloys

Opens its Advanced Metal Casting Centre.

Scientists at Brunel University (London) perfected a patented niobium-based master alloy that filled the missing gap in grain refiners for magnesium alloys and offered significant advantages over titanium in aluminium silicon alloys.

Led by Dr Hari Babu Nadendla of the Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Science (BCAST), the team’s discovery of a patented niobium based master alloy has won the Institute of Materials Charles Hatchett Prize and Medal and the Cast Metal Foundation’s 2016 Innovation Award.


The Brunel Advanced Metal Casting Centre bridges the gap between research and industry

“The Nb-based master alloy is shown to be effective in refining aluminium-containing magnesium alloys which are typically processed using sand or high pressure diecasting or direct-chill casting. Our research showed significant improvements in both tensile strength and ductility after using the niobium master alloy. But we were also delighted to discover that that same master alloy showed much greater grain refinement in Al-Si alloys than titanium and these are much more widely used than Mg-Al alloys,” said Dr Hari Babu Nadendla.

“Mg-Al alloy use is currently nowhere as widespread as Al-Si but this could change quite rapidly as a result of this discovery, especially in aerospace applications. For both alloys we found the niobium grain refiner could mean an end to the over-engineering of cast components with potential weight savings of up to 30 per cent with no loss of strength or ductility. Both in the automotive and aerospace industries weight reduction is a key driver.”

“A particularly pleasing feature is that our new master alloy opens the door to in-factory recycling of excess Al-Si melt.”


“At the moment it is generally sent offsite for recycling because of iron contamination making it brittle and so requiring specialist treatment. If the melt is treated with our discovery, excess alloy from a pour or spills and overfills can simply be recycled back into the process.”

Dr Nadendla’s team has already trialed the master alloy in factory conditions with melts of up to six tons. But they feel they have as yet barely scraped the surface and intend to investigate further in Brunel’s new Advanced Metals Casting Centre, which aims to plug the gap between laboratory discoveries and commercial production.

Shaping the future: Casting research ramps up to industrial scale
Brunel University has opened its Advanced Metal Casting Centre (AMCC), where innovative technologies to make automotive components lighter and completely recyclable will be tested under industry conditions.

The £17million, 1500m² building has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Innovate UK, Constellium and Jaguar Land Rover.


Brunel University’s casting techniques could lead to lighter and recyclable car components

The facility is equipped with a 1600 ton locking force high pressure die caster for aluminium and magnesium alloys, a 240kN closing force low pressure die caster, a pilot scale hot-top direct chill caster for two metre long billets up to 204mm in diameter, a 16 MN direct extrusion press with taper controlled billet heating, a scaled-up twin roll caster incorporating Brunel’s novel melt conditioning technology and high resolution real-time X-ray inspection.

The primary aim is to scale up from fundamental research carried out in the Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Techniques (BCAST) and the Liquid Metal Engineering Centre (LiME) under Professor Zhongyun Fan.