German car manufacturers have been working with magnesium for a long time: the original Volkswagen Beetle had a magnesium motor and gear box. But magnesium cannot be used in its pure form; it needs to be mixed with other metals to form alloys. Researchers at Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht are looking into especially heat-resistant magnesium alloys that can be used in the manufacture of vehicles. For example, rare earth elements such as lanthanum and gadolinium are well suited for use as alloying elements. In addition to this, the researchers are investigating special coatings for magnesium and processes that could make the metal more durable. The new properties developed by the researchers mean that magnesium car components are at no risk of catching fire or of pulverising.
Heidrun Hillen from the public relations department at Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht answered this question.