Today’s topic of discussion is Gundarium, otherwise known as lunar titanium. It is the rare futuristic metal that all real Gundams and many other mobile suits in the Universal Century are made of. Now I know that Gundarium is mentioned in some of the other Gundam universes, or called Gundanium in Gundam Wing, but we will stick with the Universal Century as it has the most information about the nigh-indestructible metal. Lunar titanium and the all-powerful gundams that are made from it are highly resistant to any form of damage. Specifically, it is shown to be able to resist high heat and a large amount of kinetic force, while also being very lightweight.
There are several different forms of Gundarium used throughout the Universal Century timeline. (Taken from the gundam wiki)
Gundarium Alpha– copy of the original lunar titanium
Gundarium Beta– an intermediate step towards an improved version of the metal
Gundarium Gamma– an improved version of the metal that was easier to mass produce
Gundarium Epsilon– used for nuclear propulsion
Gundarium alloy– this is a composite made of lunar titanium and a ceramic material which is weaker than lunar titanium. More on this later.
Currently humanity can make lightweight metals, and metals with high heat and kinetic resistance, but can we put all of these together in one convenient package? There are three specific areas to be examined to determine if it is possible to make a real life Gundarium.
1- Elements involved in the alloy
2- Mix of elements used in the alloy
3- Crystalline structure of the alloy
1- Elements used in Gundarium
There is one big unknown when trying to determine if it possible to make lunar titanium, and that is the exact chemical makeup of the metal. Is lunar titanium made from the currently known elements, or does it contain some as to be yet discovered element? Currently there are between 88 to 92 known naturally occurring elements, depending how you count certain elements. You might be thinking that wait I thought all of the elements above 92 were man made, and well, you would be right.
Warning: hard core science content
However, there is a theory that several stable super heavy elements might be possible at higher atomic masses than can be made currently. This concept is known as the island of stability, which states that the element is more stable if a given number of protons and neutrons are present in the nucleus. These so called magic numbers are 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, and 126. It gets much more complex from here, but here are some examples of stable elements that match the magic number system, helium-4 (2p/2n), oxygen-16 (8p/8n), calcium-40 (20p/20n), calcium-48 (20p/28n), nickel-48 (28p/20n), nickel-78 (28p/50n), and lead-208 (82p/126n). Also it should be noted that helium is the second most abundant element in the universe and lead is the most abundant of the heavy elements.
Ok, so this gets us all the way up to lead, but what about heavier elements? If you look at the elements above lead (82), you will see an increasing number of radioactive elements, which are less stable and man-made elements. The island of stability continues with 184, 258, 350, and 462. However, when the nucleus gets this large, the rules change a bit as the nucleus is no longer spherical, so a new set of numbers is needed: 114, 122, 124, and 164 for protons as well as 184, 196, 236, and 318 for neutrons.
Now before your brain explodes from all this theory there is a bit of proof for it, in the element Hassium 270 (108p/162n), which has a half-life of 22 seconds. While I will admit it is not long at all, it is longer than some of the previous man-made elements.
Hard core science content over
Thus, it is scientifically possible that we could discover or make a super heavy element that could have properties useful in the creation of lunar titanium.
2- Mix of elements used in the alloy
Warning: historical content
A pure metal is a metal that is only composed of one element, and is limited to the properties of that particular element. While this can be advantageous over the previous material that was used, it can still be somewhat limiting. We can see this in humanity’s development overtime. The people of the stone age were limited to using stone tools, which, while a step up over wooden tools and hands, were still difficult to shape and use. The next age of development was the copper age, where mankind learned how to use copper metal. Copper tools were stronger, and they could be made into a variety of shapes. Copper is still a rather soft metal that would deform over time, so the tools would have to be remade over time. The next time period was the bronze age, where bronze an alloy, came into widespread use. An alloy is a mixture of metals that can give the material new properties. In the case of bronze, it is a mixture of tin and copper, which were both soft metals, while bronze is significantly harder.
Historical content over
Given the wide range of properties Gundarium is said to have, I think we can safely assume that it is an alloy of some kind. Alloys can have a wide range of properties, but here we will be most concerned with temperature resistance, and hardness/strength. Temperature resistance is important as it is the method through which energy weapons will damage a structure by melting through it. Hardness is important in resisting kinetic energy weapons that damage by punching straight through the material. Yes, softer metals are used in some types of tank armor to absorb the blow and dissipate the energy; however, I do not believe this is the case with Gundarium. This is due to the Gundams never being shown with gouges and dents in the armor due to kinetic weapons.
Refractory metals are metals that have high heat resistance and are also very hard, so they could potentially be a real life Gundarium.
Niobium alloys are currently used for the nozzles of rocket engines, where they are highly resistant to temperatures up to 1650 degrees Celsius, but are considered to be rather weak and not used in structural or protective applications.
Molybdenum alloys can also resist high temperatures (2,623 degrees Celsius), but they have a tendency to oxidize or rust over 760 degrees Celsius, so would only be useful in outer space. While stronger than Niobium alloys, they are only used in the aerospace industry.
Tungsten alloys have high melting points (2770 degrees Celsius) and can be considered to be very hard, as they are used to coat tools used in metal working. These alloys are also used to make kinetic energy penetrators or anti-tank shells, due to its high hardness. The downside to this particular alloy is that it is very dense, which means any vehicle using it as armor would quickly become extremely heavy and difficult to move.
Scientists have recently come up with a theoretical alloy that is very resistant to heat using computer models. However, the strength of the alloy is unknown at this time.
While these metals might have some of the heat resistance and strength also seen in Gundarium, their higher density and weight does not match the light weight profile of Gundarium and reduces their feasibility as real world armor for military vehicles.
3- Crystalline structure of the alloy
The next consideration in the making of lunar titanium is the crystalline structure of the metal. Yes, metals do have a crystalline structure, and these structures can have a large impact on the properties of the metal. This can include density, absorption of physical impacts, chemical reactions, magnetic effects, and electrical effects, and the presence of defects.
Ferrite– cast iron and it gives the iron its magnetic properties
Austenite– plain carbon steel, which means it is harder and stronger, but is harder to weld and less ductile.
Given that lunar titanium is only made on the moon, we can assume that the crystalline structure of Gundarium is important in its creation. Low gravity environments can change how the materials in the creation of Gundarium interact. These new interactions can include how the materials mix and how the crystalline structure of the metal is formed. This connects back to the previous segment on the crystalline structure of metals.
The crystal structure is also prone to flaws, spots where the crystal is misshapen. These defects can lead to defects and weaknesses in the resulting structure. Low gravity environments reduce the chances of these crystal defects forming, which can strengthen the overall structure. Additionally, the lack of gravity allows for a wider variety of pouring and casting methods. This can reduce the number of welds needed in the resulting structure. This is a new area of material science that is currently being researched on the International Space Station.
Science is much closer to making Gundarium than I thought, but it is still not there yet and that doesn’t even include some of the other more fanciful properties of the metal. As such I have to call Gundarium busted at this time. Yes, the island of stability might exist, but no elements with usable half-lives have been discovered at this time. Next, while we can make metals with high heat resistance and/or high strength they are still not the nigh-indestructible metals that could be considered gundarium. They also lack the light weight Gundarium is said to possess. Lastly, the method of construction in low gravity environment has yet to be fully realized. Thus, I have to call Gundarium busted.
Please leave any comments or questions you have in the comments section below. And if you are ineresting in other gundam topics check out phase shift armor from Gundam Seed.