Metallurgists have developed a new kind of steel which they claim to be stronger, lighter and cheaper than titanium

A new kind of steel that could topple titanium as the ultimate choice for bike frames has been invented. The team claims it is stronger and as lighter, crucially, could cost one tenth of the price.

Most steels are cheap compared to titanium but they are usually weaker and heavier. On the other hand, titanium is nowhere near as stiff as steel, is expensive to make and can break more easily.

The game-changing new metal is said to combine the best qualities of both steel and titanium without any of the downsides. So, stronger, light, high end frames could be made at a fraction of the price.

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It’s 13 per cent less dense compared to normal steel, and has almost the same strength-to-weight ratio compared to titanium alloys, say the scientists.

They’ve done this by using a brand new recipe for steel. All steels contain several ingredients – iron and carbon are essential and then there are varying quantities of chromium, molybdenum, manganese, silicon, sulphur and phosphorus.

But the new metal also contains a big helping of aluminium, which is much less dense than iron and similarly cheap. People tried making high-aluminium steel before but the end result was too brittle.

The South Korean researchers, though, have added a dose of nickel to the mix and created tiny crystals inside the steel which stop any nano-scale cracks from spreading.

So the laboratory samples are light and strong – exactly what cyclists need for a frame that allows them to go faster.

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The first 40kg of the new steel are being made industrially by one of the world’s largest steel makers, POSCO, before mass production can start.

Then it will be used to make lighter aircraft so they won’t need to burn so much fuel. Car makers will be next to use it to cut the weight of the heaviest car parts.

But Cycling Weekly has been in touch with the team leader, Hansoo Kim, and he says he believes it will be possible for the new steel to be manufactured as tubes – exactly what framebuilders need.

When will it be available? It’ll take a couple of years for steelmakers to invest in new plant equipment and a couple more before the military and aviation sectors have consumed the first batches.

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When it does get sold on the open market, it’s likely to cost more than titanium at the start. Only when mass production is well under way, within 10 years, will the price tumble.

In other words, if you’re in the market for a new frame, don’t wait. But you might like to invest now in a titanium frame – they could become collectors’ items of historical value when the new steel is king.

  • No one seems mentioning the name of this new metal? And how resistant is it to oxidation?

  • Richie Johnston

    Thank you ! :]

  • The Awakening

    RE: “The South Korean researchers, though, have added a dose of nickel to the mix and created tiny crystals inside the steel which stop any nano-scale cracks from spreading.”

    It is interesting to read that some added Nickel to the steel, makes such an improvement. It would have been interesting to know how the South Korean researchers came across this discovery.

  • macnkat

    Does it have a name?

  • L yancey

    Can’t wait! But in the meantime, my Meech Custom Bicycle steel CX bike weighs under 17lbs-53cm. Built with Campy and Zipp 303’s. I’ve been racing bike for 4 years-2 masters worlds and 1 national-plus a zillion other CX races. No problems-this bikes too fast for rust to catch it! My bike is primed with an epoxy primer.

  • Cycling Science

    I’ve just been told by one of the metallurgists who invented this new steel, Mr Hansoo Kim, and he says “Generally, high aluminum-containing steels have good corrosion resistance due to alumina formation on the steel surface. But, corrosion during long term service should be tested.” Hope that answers your question.

  • Guest2

    “could cost one tenth of the price.”

    That’s code for, even though it’s a cheaper raw material, cycling manufacturers will create some BS reason as to why they will actually charge more for it.

  • David Chadderton

    Oh great, steel is back. Now I know I was ahead of my time in post-aware England with my steel bike. Also, Reg Harris had it right on his all-steel Raleigh. Actually, I am already a generation ahead of this new material because I ride all-aluminium-steel bicycles. (Humour).

  • Richie Johnston

    Will it rust ?

  • Earl

    NO!

  • Dan

    Shut up

  • Earl

    stainless is heavy. You mean: Will it rust?

  • Dan

    Will it be stainless?