To date, no organisation in the world has been able to produce titanium powder directly in a continuous manner on a commercial scale from titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4 – the usual precursor used for titanium metal production). The CSIR is developing a process that can do just this, and is currently building a pilot plant to scale the technololgy up.
The national benefits that would arise from a world-scale, low-cost titanium metal plant are considerable.
The pilot plant has a nominal design capacity of producing 2 kg/ h of titanium powder continuously. Construction and commissioning of the plant are to be completed by 31 March 2013. Test campaigns to gain scaleup information regarding the
process, and to produce sufficient product for evaluation by potential customers, are planned following successful commissioning of the plant.
In the CSIR’s process, the rate of TiCl4 reaction is slowed down by executing the process in a molten salt medium that allows better control of the titanium particle morphology than other process variations.
In parallel to the technical work, a commercialisation task team with representation from industrial and financial concerns has been formed to plan and manage work to ultimately realise commercial implementation of the strategy.
South Africa’s entire titanium beneficiation strategy depends largely on the success of this pilot plant and its further commercialisation.
ScienceScope article in pdf: Piloting a titanium metal production process
Dr Dawie van Vuuren