From toxic waste to green cars

Millions of tons of toxic waste could be kept out of landfills by using it to create lightweight composite metal foams for use in automotive and consumer products. More than 70 million tons of fly ash—a poisonous by-product of coal combustion—are produced by coal power plants in the U.S. every year, and more than half that amount is dumped in landfills.


Researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, tested aluminum and magnesium alloys filled with fly ash at high compression rates—similar to those experienced in high-speed auto accidents—and found that the lightweight foams absorb more energy than the solid metals.

“Composite metal foams made with fly ash could be seamlessly incorporated into vehicle manufacture with no compromise in performance,” says Nikhil Gupta, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Polytechnic Institute of New York University.


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