Cambridge University spin-out Metalysis has revealed a breakthrough ‘sand to metal’ conversion process from its UK technology flagship.The company has developed a production process that can transform natural rutile sands directly into titanium metal powder in a single step. Rutile is a naturally occurring titanium ore present in beach sands.
The process has the potential to completely transform the metals industry and has the benefits of being an environmentally benign and cost-effective means of titanium production.
Metalysis is exploiting technology from Cambridge University that was spun-out in 2001 and is now headquartered in Yorkshire.
The new Metalysis process, developed at the UK plant, has successfully carried out a series of production runs using rutile feedstock and is now able to produce a range of titanium powders.
The breakthrough in the use of rutile ore as the feedstock is part of a decade-long development of a process to provide highly-efficient, cost effective and transformational specialist metals production.
The new rutile derived titanium powder can be used in a variety of new applications to satisfy the latent demand for a low cost, lightweight, high strength and corrosion resistant metal.
In addition to titanium, tantalum and specialist metals (including rare earths), a wide range of innovative ‘designer’ alloys can be produced on a commercial scale with a significantly reduced environmental impact. The process is also suitable for the recycling of strategic metals.
The nature of the Metalysis process means that it can produce alloys that would not be cost effective by traditional processes. It is entirely solid-state; therefore metals with significantly different densities or melting points can be alloyed.
These innovative alloys can be tailored to have the desired properties for applications within a variety of industries including automotive, marine, electronics, clean energy and aerospace.
Since moving from its original Cambridge HQ Metalysis has developed an extensive global patent portfolio and substantial ‘know-how’. The portfolio currently comprises over 24 live patent families providing worldwide coverage for the technology.
CEO Guppy Dhariwal said: “Metalysis has spent a significant period of time and resource developing a process that can produce titanium powder from a relatively inexpensive feedstock in a single step.
“We now expect that our process will have a transformational effect on the metals industry through the production of titanium on a greater scale, at a lower cost and in an environmentally benign manner.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Titanium metal powder (natural metal) after it has been through the Metalysis process