Trump’s administration is relaxing the steel and aluminium quotas levied on some countries. Weird plants seem to have an affinity for heavy metals. And some clever people have created the world’s most wear-resistant material, a brand new platinum-gold alloy. Here’s the news from the wonderful world of metal supply.
New platinum-gold alloy is the world’s most wear-resistant metal
A new alloy from the talented materials science eggheads at Sandia National Laboratories is so tough you could skid around the equator on wheels made from it and it’d last for a full 500 circuits before the tread wore thin. That’s what we call resilient.
The new platinum-gold alloy is the most wear-resistant metal on earth, a hundred times more so than high strength steel, and its creation reveals how fundamentally science can change alloys, changes that deliver an incredible hike in performance. It matters because while metals seem strong, when they rub together like they do in an engine, they deform, wear and corrode.
The only solution so far has been the addition of a special barrier to prevent damage, for example the oil used in combustion engines. Electronics often involves moving metal-to-metal contacts. They’re protected by outer layers of gold or other alloys of precious metals, which are costly, and they ultimately wear off. The smaller the connections are, the worse the problem, simply because you have less material to begin with.
Sandia’s revolutionary platinum-gold coating means just one layer of atoms is rubbed off after a mile of skidding on our hypothetical alloy wheels. It could save the electronics industry over $100 million every year in materials alone. And it’d make all manner of electronic goods across multiple sectors last longer as well as bringing their prices down.
Trump ‘relaxes’ his steel and aluminium quotas
As aluminium stockists and respected steel suppliers in the UK it’s good to hear that US President Donald Trump has, at last, relaxed the Steel and Aluminium quotas he’d placed on some nations. The news came via a press release, which claimed that the head of America’s Commerce Department, Secretary Wilbur Ross, had been given the power to lower quotas on aluminium from Argentina and steel from Korea, Brazil, and Argentina.
As Ross said, “Companies can apply for product exclusions based on insufficient quantity or quality available from U.S. Steel or Aluminium producers. In such cases, an exclusion from the quota may be granted and no tariff would be owed.” It also looks like affected companies will be able to apply for product exclusions as long as the product isn’t available in enough quantity, or at the right quality, from home-grown producers.
Trump’s April Aluminium and Steel tariffs were intended to deal with ‘national security concerns’, and came into effect in early summer 2018. While most countries suffer 10% tariffs on Aluminium exports to the US, a few decided to go for a strict quota, the only alternative to the tariffs. The tariffs were greeted with disgust across the world and were widely predicted to ultimately harm the American economy. Since then a number of governments have taken the Trump administration to task, and some have put in place unilateral trade measures against US imports.
Weird plants that love heavy metals
Heavy metals and delicate green plants are rarely comfortable bedfellows, but one particular set of plants is perfectly happy growing in soil that’s rich in high concentrations of Nickel and Zinc. They’re called hyperaccumulators, and scientists believe they’ve actually evolved to absorb usually-toxic metals into their stems, leaves and even their seeds.
Pycnandra Acuminata is the star of the show, native to south Pacific island of New Caledonia. The theory is it uses nickel to protect itself against insect damage. The latex the tree gives off is so high in nickel – around 25% – that it glows an odd blue-green. The 20m high tree is restricted to the few small patches of remaining rainforest on the island, say the researchers from the University of Queensland. Apparently the tree’s affinity for nickel was noticed in the 1970s. Since then plenty more hyperaccumulator plants have come to light.
Come back next month for the latest news. In the meantime if you need metal supplies, walk this way. We know our stuff and we’re always pleased to help.
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