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The threat of classic titanium production

Titanium sponge

The current production of titanium sponge is based on the reduction of TiCl4 by magnesium. The threat of classical contamination with sodium chlorides and other impurities, requires refining under vacuum conditions. Everyone knows the disadvantage and costliness of the classical refining process required to obtain the final product. That is why scientists are now working on the development of a cheaper and more convenient production technology.

Composition of impurities in sponge titanium after classical reduction from TiCl4 by different methods

Element Vacuum separation Magnesium with salt leaching Sodium with salt leaching
N 0,015 0,015 0,1
H 0,005 --- 0,05
Fe 0,12 0,1 0,06
C 0,02 0,025 0,02
Cl 0,12 0,2 0,2
Mg 0,08 0,05 ---
O 0,1 0,1 0,1

Promising developments

It was reported in the media that the University of Cambridge (UK) has discovered a process for producing titanium, which is called revolutionary. If it finds application on a global industrial scale, it will lead to lower production costs as well as a cleaner end product.


This discovery is expected to solve the problems of the titanium electrolytic enrichment process. The main innovation of the new so-called FFC-Cambridge process (named after Derek Fray, George Chen and Tom Farthing) is the electrolysis of titanium dioxide in cathode form, in molten sodium chloride electrolytes. Titanium is formed in a stable form at 900 °C, at which point the cathode loses oxygen.


A recent trend of chasing licenses for patents on this process is evident. Pilot plants are yielding purified titanium by the tens of kilograms daily. A number of organizations are included in the study. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded $12.5 million to a consortium led by Timet to bring the FFC process into commercial production. The consortium also includes Cambridge University British Titanium, as well as Boeing, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, United Defense and the University of California at Berkeley.


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