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Health, Science & Tech

New ALCOA Aluminum Could Create Better Cars

A new type of aluminum could change the way cars are made, making them lighter stronger and greener.

Pittsburgh-based Alcoa’s Micromill® takes molten metal and turns it into an aluminum coil in 20 minutes; previously the process took 20 days. It creates a product unlike any seen before.

“Higher strength, increased formability, high surface quality, all the things that the customers, particularly in the automotive market, are looking for,” said Executive VP and Chief Technology Officer of Alcoa, Ray Kilmer. "[We have] the ability now to make products we never could make in the past as far as their attributes."

Kilmer says the technology will revolutionize the way cars are made. Right now automotive companies mostly use steel for the body of the car, but the lighter aluminum is more attractive to car producers because that translates into better fuel economy.  However, until now aluminum could not compete with the strength of steel. ALCOA says the product Micromill® is 30 times stronger than regular aluminum and automotive producers are looking to use it in their cars.

“Ford F-150, the highest volume selling truck in North America is this year moving to an aluminum intensive structure. That will save that vehicle 700 pounds in weight,” said Kilmer.

This technology is not limited just to use in cars. Any product such as aluminum cans, construction materials and electronics will be able to utilize this material.

Although the price is steeper than regular aluminum, Kilmer says the product makes up for it in by being 40% more formable, more durable, and greener.

“This technology with its compact footprint uses substantially less energy, substantially less water, and has substantially lower VOC emissions. So we’re excited not only about what we’re doing on the manufacturing side from the perspective of the products we’re making, but from the fact that it has a very green footprint,” said Kilmer.

Kilmer expects more car companies will begin to use this aluminum as well.

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