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Development Status of Magnesium Alloy Materials

Development Status of Magnesium Alloy Materials

Source: Chinese Engineering Science

Authors: Li Fang, Guan Rengu, Tie Di, Liu Chuming, Le Qichi, Song Jiangfeng, Zeng Xiaoqin, Jiang Bin

Abstract: Based on an overview of the current status of China's magnesium alloy material industry, this article analyzes the major domestic and international issues facing its development and considers the future market demand prospects in 11 areas, including high-performance rare earth magnesium lightweight structural alloy materials, high-strength and high-thermal conductivity magnesium alloy materials, high-strength and high-conductivity magnesium alloy materials, and ultra-high strength magnesium alloy materials. With a view towards phased development plans for 2030 and 2035, this article proposes relevant strategies to promote the sustainable development of China's advanced magnesium alloy materials industry by improving independent innovation capabilities, optimizing resource allocation, strengthening enterprise cooperation, building an improved magnesium alloy material research system, and improving platform construction. Finally, recommendations for countermeasures are provided from the perspective of ensuring the demands for advanced magnesium alloy materials in national economic development, major national engineering projects, and social sustainable development are met, by focusing on the construction of research systems, optimizing industrial development patterns, building high-quality and efficient industries, improving supporting policy systems, and constructing elite talent systems.

Keywords: metal materials industry; magnesium alloy; rare earth magnesium alloy materials; low energy consumption; high efficiency; 2035


The rapid development of basic materials has brought about significant changes in various aspects of social, economic, and cultural systems in countries around the world. As an important category of advanced basic materials industries, China's magnesium alloy material industry has implemented an independent innovation strategy since the implementation of the "13th Five-Year Plan" series of strategic measures, and has independently developed more than 10 types of magnesium alloy materials, which have been successfully applied in fields such as aviation, space, national defense, and military industry, as well as automobiles, effectively reducing the cost of magnesium alloy products and enhancing their market competitiveness. With abundant magnesium resources and stimulated by demand for automotive energy saving and emission reduction as well as lightweighting, China's magnesium alloy materials consumption market is expected to further develop, bringing opportunities and challenges to the industry.

In line with the global trend of green energy development, the overall development of China's magnesium alloy material industry is moving towards low energy consumption, high efficiency, and high quality, with continuous upgrading and transformation. China's technology research and development (R&D) in magnesium alloy materials started later than that of developed countries in Europe and the United States. Although some core technologies in the field of magnesium alloy materials have been successfully developed, there are still considerable differences with foreign countries in terms of R&D efficiency, product quality, market expansion, and environmental protection. In the future, China's magnesium alloy material industry needs to be based on national strategic needs, closely follow international research hotspots, continuously improve the overall level of the industry, strengthen the research and development of advanced magnesium alloy materials, and strive to improve independent innovation capabilities. By optimizing the implementation methods of organizations, we can help to make the "industry-university-research" system of advanced magnesium alloy materials that are urgently needed for major national projects smooth and promote the transformation of relevant scientific research results and their industrial application. This will achieve a strategic transformation from a material power to a material power in China, and meet the demand for advanced magnesium alloy materials in the national economy, major national projects, and sustainable social development.

Current Situation and Problems of China's Advanced Magnesium Alloy Material Industry Development

Development Status

  • The trend of upgrading the magnesium alloy material industry is obvious

Since the 13th Five-Year Plan, China's magnesium alloy material industry has implemented an independent innovation strategy and relied on scientific and technological progress and technological innovation to improve the uniformity of material quality through the combination of "industry, university, research, and application". This has effectively improved the effective supply capacity and level of mid-to-high-end materials. Under the new normal, China has gradually changed from the traditional mode of high investment, high consumption, high pollution, and high emissions to a development model of low investment, low consumption, high output, and low pollution. New processes and methods with short processes, low costs, and low energy consumption are constantly emerging.

  • Production capacity and market consumption of primary magnesium

In recent years, China's magnesium industry has operated steadily, with production and exports continuing to grow. Currently, the world's primary magnesium production mainly comes from China. According to statistics from the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, in 2019, China's primary magnesium production was 9.69 × 105t, a year-on-year increase of 12.2%. In terms of prices, affected by the increase in supply, the average price of primary magnesium was 15,949 yuan/t, a year-on-year decrease of 3.3%. The actual profit level of magnesium smelting enterprises decreased slightly year-on-year. In terms of resource consumption and market, China's magnesium resource consumption was 4.85 × 105t, a year-on-year increase of 8.6%, an increase of 1.6 percentage points compared with the same period last year. However, the demand for magnesium resources abroad has rebounded. In 2019, China exported about 4.52 × 105t of various magnesium products, a year-on-year increase of 10.2%, accounting for 46.6% of China's magnesium production.

  • Technological research and development progress in the magnesium alloy material industry

In recent years, China has actively carried out the development of advanced magnesium alloy materials to address the weakness of poor mechanical properties in magnesium alloy materials internationally. There have been important breakthroughs in the engineering technology of rare earth magnesium alloys, large-size cast bars, and large complex parts. Some high-strength magnesium alloy large-size complex castings and high-strength heat-resistant magnesium alloy large-scale extruded profiles/forgings have reached the world's advanced level. Specifically, in 2019, Nanjing Yunhai Special Metals Co., Ltd. made significant progress in technology research and development and production integration. The forged magnesium alloy wheels produced were applied in automotive host enterprises. Shanghai Jiao Tong University's National Engineering Research Center for Light Alloy Precision Forming has developed a new type of high-performance lightweight magnesium-rare earth alloy material, which has been successfully applied to critical and complex load-bearing components of helicopters. The lightweight effect is remarkable and batch stable manufacturing has been achieved, filling the gap in China's new generation of high-strength and heat-resistant magnesium alloy materials for helicopters. The National Magnesium Alloy Material Engineering Technology Research Center of Chongqing University has developed more than 40 new magnesium alloys, including the AT, AE, and VW series, among which 16 alloys have become national standard grades and more than ten alloys have been applied in engineering and industrialization promotion. Northeastern University has developed large-scale magnesium alloy flat ingot production technology, which can currently produce magnesium alloy large flat ingots with a maximum cross-section of 1450mm × 400mm. They have also developed a complete set of technology for magnesium alloy wide plate and strip rolling, which has been industrially applied. Units such as Central South University and Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry have developed high-strength and high-toughness rare earth magnesium alloys, high-performance die-cast magnesium alloys, and batch production technology for rare earth magnesium alloys. These technologies have been successfully applied in aerospace, national defense, military industry, automobiles, electronic products, and other fields, greatly reducing the cost of rare earth magnesium alloy products, enhancing their market competitiveness, and filling the gaps in relevant fields in China.

Main problems that exist

  • Late start and weak foundation in industrial development, high dependence on imported key equipment, and prominent limitations due to human factors.

China's high-performance magnesium alloy materials industry started late and has a weak foundation, with the overall application still in the middle and low end of the industrial and value chains. At the same time, the implementation rate of relevant strategic policies is relatively low, and there is a significant gap in key process technologies compared to foreign countries, with most high-end equipment relying on imports. The technology and equipment needed for research and development are often limited by exports from abroad, making the development of magnesium alloy materials difficult, especially for the research and development of many high-end core materials, which faces difficulties, slow performance improvement, and serious lack of production capacity. In addition, the level of intelligence in research and development, production, and service of related enterprises is relatively low, with a lack of supporting systems such as standards, testing, evaluation, measurement, and management, and further improvements are needed to enhance product performance stability and consistency in quality.

  • The scientific research system is not yet sound, research and development investment is insufficient, and talent team building needs to be improved.

Currently, the sound scientific research system is lacking, and the research and development mechanism led by enterprises still needs to be further improved. The "production-education-research-application" cooperation is not tight, and there are still barriers to integration. Research and development funding for relevant scientific research institutions is insufficient, and the talent team building is incomplete, with a lack of incentive policies and research and development platforms, which results in insufficient innovation motivation for scientific and technological personnel. In addition, there is a lack of guarantee policies for investment risks in new technologies, making it difficult for new technologies from scientific research institutions to be widely promoted and applied in enterprises.

  • Deep-seated contradictions and problems such as structural overcapacity and imbalanced market supply and demand gradually emerge in the magnesium alloy materials industry.

Affected by changes in the international and domestic economic situation, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for metal materials in the market is sluggish, and deep-seated contradictions and problems such as structural overcapacity and imbalanced market supply and demand that have been accumulated for a long time in the magnesium alloy materials industry gradually emerge. At present, China's magnesium industry is running smoothly, with production and exports continuing to grow, but there are shortcomings in smelting environmental protection level, deep processing product application, etc., and the task of industrial transformation and upgrading remains arduous. In addition, the magnesium alloy materials industry in China has a huge production capacity, which has far-reaching impacts on resources, the environment, etc., and there is still a long way to go in the development and application of energy-saving, material-saving, and environmentally friendly short-process preparation and processing technologies.

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