A castable, moldable, or extrudable magnesium-based alloy that includes one or more insoluble additives. The insoluble additives can be used to enhance the mechanical properties of the structure, such as ductility and/or tensile strength. The final structure can be enhanced by heat treatment, as well as deformation processing such as extrusion, forging, or rolling, to further improve the strength of the final structure as compared to the non-enhanced structure. The magnesium-based composite has improved thermal and mechanical properties by the modification of grain boundary properties through the addition of insoluble nanoparticles to the magnesium alloys. The magnesium-based composite can have a thermal conductivity that is greater than 180 W/m-K, and/or ductility exceeding 15-20% elongation to failure.