Scientists found that adding ‘poison’ to magnesium could help develop next generation of magnesium products


A group of researchers have successfully created a magnesium alloy with significantly reduced corrosion rates, marking what could be a major turning point for the aerospace, automotive and electronics industries which rely on lightweight metal for various applications.

Image courtesy of kangshutters /
Image courtesy of kangshutters /

According to the latest news from Monash University, the research, led by the University’s own Associate Professor Nick Birbilis from the Department of Materials Engineering, determined that the magnesium’s corrosion rates could be reduced by adding arsenic, which is a type of cathodic ‘poison’.

Magnesium is the lightest structural metal, weighing two thirds less than aluminum. Despite having many uses in industrial applications its potential is restricted by its poor resistance to corrosion, or the process of being eaten away and changed by a chemical action.

Scientists have found that adding small amounts of arsenic to magnesium slows down the corrosion by ‘poisoning’ the reaction before it can complete.

The discovery could have a huge significance for a wide range of industries as more stainless, corrosion-resistant magnesium would mean that the metal will be available for wider use and lead to considerable weight and energy savings.


Professor Birbilis says the discovery would contribute to the birth of ‘stainless’ magnesium products by using cathodic poisons.

“Our breakthrough will help develop the next generation of magnesium products, which must be more stainless,” said Mr. Birbilis.

“This is a very important and timely finding. In an era of light-weighting for energy and emissions reductions, there is a great demand for magnesium alloys in everything from portable electronics to air and land transportation.”

“Magnesium products are rapidly evolving to meet the demands of industry, but presently are hindered by high corrosion rates. The arsenic effect we discovered is now being trialled as a functional additive to existing commercial alloys.”

Identification of methods to restrict magnesium corrosion is the first step in engineering such technology into functional alloys, according to Monash.

The research was conducted together with the University of Wales and CSIRO.