@Ann: Although steel is stronger than aluminum, it's not really too surprising that forged aluminum wheels are stronger than steel wheels made from sheet metal -- the designs and manufacturing processes are completely different. A forged steel wheel would be much stronger than a forged aluminum wheel, but would also weigh a lot more. (Forged steel wheels make sense for railroad cars, but definitely not for on-road applications).
The lifecycle analysis is very interesting. It is very comprehensive, and all of the assumptions seem to be reasonable. It makes a convincing case.
Lou, you're certainly right about the recyclability of aluminum, and steel too to a somewhat lesser extent. But it's also true that LCA has to look at everything. In fact, the latest concept of the life cycle is "cradle-to-cradle", not "cradle-to-grave." CtoC includes that last link in the chain that closes the loop (to mix metaphors) of recycled material going back into the product.
Ann, you mention end of life phases when talking about the life cycle cost analysis. You mention recycling and disposal. Steel and aluminum of this type will certainly be recycled. It has been known for some time that aluminum recycling is extremely effecient. I think it uses about 5% of the energy to recycle aluminum as it does to refine it from bauxite. Steel is also effecient, although I am not sure of the ratio. Steel mini-mills are the most effecient steel mills becuase they use scrap. So, I assume in this case the wheels of both types will be recycled.
It is good, though to see such comprehensive analysis. If you are looking at full lifecycle costs, then you really have to look at everything.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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