development of different grades of steel, taking the basics we
used 50 years ago and trying to incrementally improve.”
The German design house EDAG conducted a study,
contracted by the United States government, to compare
a conventionally built 2011 Honda Accord, a custom-built
lightweight vehicle made from reverse-engineering the Accord
with lightweight techniques, and a version made entirely of nano-
structured steel. The nano-steel car saw a 30 percent reduction
in mass compared to the Accord, while the lightweight version
saw a 22 percent reduction.
The test car was made using three different grades of nano-structured steel. N2 Grade offers high formability and was
used for the external body panels (although it has not yet been
validated for the ability to create Class A surfaces).
N2 Grade, used for its high work-hardening capability, was
used for the crash rails and floor structure since it enables a
large amount of energy absorption (and therefore safety) during
a crash. The N3 Grade, which had the highest strength, was
used for the roof and the body side structures that protect the
EDAG says that the NanoSteel-intensive vehicle showed
that the steel was “well suited for high volume mass-market
vehicle platforms” and offered “comparable weight reduction” to
They haven’t specifically studied what kind of fuel reduction
comes along with the weight reduction, but the National Science
Academy has said that a 10 percent reduction in weight provides
a six to seven percent reduction in fuel use.
“Look at the use of steel over the last 30 years,” Parsons
says. “How many grades were there 20 or 30 years ago versus
the hundreds of grades approved now? Thirty years ago there
were less than 10. I think automakers realize that different steels
have different characteristics and can be used in different ways.
NanoSteel is truly embracing the opportunities that it gives them
for performance improvement and lightweighting.”
Of course, as part of a business, Parsons now wants to get
the nano-structured steel into the hands of more customers,
especially those in the automotive sector.
He says that one of the things that is most appealing about
nano-structured steel is that it can be processed on the same
supply chain, equipment, and manufacturing lines as conventional
steel. In order to use aluminum or composites, factories have to
change everything from where they get their material to sorting
and scrap handling. Vehicle manufacturers are already set up to
Parsons says that his company has approached and
successfully wooed “virtually all” automakers.
“It just shows how well some of the developments from the
military, governments, and Department of Energy can benefit
mankind,” Parsons said.
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