Magnesium alloys are formed from a base of elemental magnesium and another metallic element. A type of alkaline earth metal, elemental magnesium is a strong, yet light-weight metal that is also highly flammable and burns with a particularly bright light. As a comparable metal to aluminum, magnesium is the third most commonly used type of structural metal.
A fairly inexpensive metal, magnesium features the advantageous characteristics of being easily machinable, because it is in fact the easiest type of metal to machine, particularly when it comes to casting and high ductility. The most common metallic elements that magnesium is used to alloy with are aluminum
, zinc and lead, although it can also be alloyed with other non-ferrous metals such as zirconium. Since magnesium alloys offer strength in a light-weight form, they are used in a diverse range of applications in industries such as: automotive, for parts such as gearboxes
, clutch housings, brake pedal brackets, wheels and valve covers; industrial manufacturing, for use in metal processing
applications such as casting; aerospace, in which magnesium alloys are used for parts such as generator housings, compressor casings for turbine engines and auxiliary gearboxes; and electronics, used for devices such as computer parts, flash photography tools and cellular phones.
The different types of magnesium alloys have varied properties depending on the metallic element that magnesium was alloyed with. As the most common metal alloyed with magnesium, aluminum provides the magnesium with additional corrosion-resistance while not adding to the density of the metal as aluminum is also a very light-weight metal. Able to provide both cast and wrought magnesium alloys, two of the most common types of aluminum-magnesium alloys are Birmabright, which has a higher amount of aluminum than magnesium, and Magnalium, which also has a higher amount of aluminum than magnesium, but contains more magnesium than Birmabright. Some additional magnesium alloys include Elektron, Magnox and Magnuminium. Elektron is the category name for a broad range of magnesium alloys that also contain various amounts of other metallic elements such as silver, zinc, zirconium, aluminum or varied rare earth elements. Magnox, on the other hand, refers to one specific type of magnesium alloy. This alloy contains trace amounts of aluminum and other metals, and its name is a shorted version of the descriptor ‘Magnesium Non-Oxidizing'. Lastly, Magnuminium is generic name for many magnesium-based alloys that are commonly used for the applications of roofing as well as portable electric tools and domestic appliances.