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A New Kind Of Metal Grown In Tanks May Change The Way We Build Forever

It’s stronger and lighter than high-performance steel–and it can last for generations.

A Seattle-based company called Modumetal is growing a new type of metal in liquid tanks rather than forging it in foundries. This new material is lighter and stronger than steel and can resist corrosion under extreme circumstances for generations rather than just years without any kind of maintenance. According to the company, which is led by fifth generation physicist Dr. Christina Lomasney, these new “nanolaminate alloys” can be produced in industrial quantities at the same cost as normal steel–and they could change the way humanity builds things forever.

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On the left, a corrosion-resistant galvanized steel screw that has been under extreme conditions for few weeks. On the right, a nanolaminate alloy that has been under the same test for three years. [Photo: Modumetal]
In the video below, Dr. Lomasney explains Modumetal’s manufacturing process by comparing it to the way samurai swords are made–by layering steel to make it extremely strong and very thin. But instead of layering the material using heat and folding it again and again, the company grows its alloys layer by layer using an electrochemical reaction inside a liquid tank.

The company claims it can control this electrochemical process to give its materials specific features according to the specs required for different applications. One of them is an iron-based material that is stronger, lighter, and harder than high-performance steel but costs the same and is more resistant to corrosion than galvanized steel.

[Photo: Modumetal]
Modumetal claims that these alloys can be used across a broad range of industries including architecture, public works engineering, cars, aerospace, and even in nuclear power plants. The key innovation, in each case? Instead of requiring costly maintenance to keep structures like the Golden Gate Bridge standing for decades, modumetals can stand for generations on their own.

Given the current global environmental crisis and the recent threat of a trade war over steel, perhaps changing the way we think about manufacturing the very fabric of our infrastructure is a good idea.

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About the author

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce and a contributing writer at Fast Company.

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