Good News: SRI Will Make Cheaper Titanium
The fact is Titanium is expensive and is used almost everywhere — from construction of building to manufacturing of vehicles and luxury watches. The good News, reported by Technology Review, is that a new method has been discovered through which Titanium can be produced cost effectively. Now, if a production method which can reduce the expenses of the production of material which is used ubiquitously, then and only then: keep on reading.
Before I advance to reveal the new technique, it is important to take a gist of the conventional methods. Usually the Kroll process is used to make Titanium. In this process, refined rutile and ilmenite are extracted from the original metal ore, then the temperature is raised radically (as high as 100 °C) and extracted metal is put in it. Finally, it is treated with liquid magnesium, volatile chlorides and chlorine gas.
So you see the ordinal procedure is lengthy. And it is – especially the phase of raising temperature – expensive too.
Now in the newly discovered technique by SRI International, plasma arcs are used which provide a kind of procedural short-cut for the producers. The arcs have ample energy to split bonds in titanium chloride. Meantime, when the arcs split chlorine bonds coming from titanium ore, titanium vapor is produced. After the solidification process, titanium vapor forms a titanium powder.
Because less amount of energy is required in this process, its cost is less than the traditional techniques of Titanium production.
It is not the cost factor only which makes the new technique useful, but the quality of end product too. If the titanium production is done in the existing ways, a long process follows the end product for its refinement. To illustrate, solid lumps of titanium are produced first that then needed to be further passed through crushing and grinding machines.
Lastly, the metal is heated up on high temperatures to be formed in a shape that can be further machined for refinement purposes. This is similar to the titanium powder which is formed quite simply in the new technique.
The characteristic which distinguishes Titanium from other metal is its less weight and more strength. Due to its expensiveness, Titanium is seldom used in general products. In fact, its usage is limited to high-grade products. However, if the new technique is proven successful in the long run, application of this precious metal will be possible in the mid-ranged products. I wish SRI best of luck!