Titanium Manufacturing – The Sadoway Way
Direct electrolysis is the electrolytic decomposition of a compound dissolved in an ionic melt.
In his slides on Titanium Extraction by Molten Oxide Electrolysis the current process for titanium extraction is highly capital intensive and creates toxic substances such as dioxins. By using electrolysis at very high temperatures, one can extract titanium with only oxygen as a by-product.
The new process can produce titanium five times cheaper than current processes dropping the price from $7.5/ingot to less than $1.50 per ingot according to this site. This is the same process as used in most aluminum manufacturing operations.
Currently, titanium is manufactured using the three step Kroll process which reduces the titanium tetrachloride with an active metal such as magnesium. The Sadoway method uses a one step method.
With the next generation of airplanes coming out of Boeing and Airbus, the ability to manufacture titanium more cheaply will bring this technology to the forefront.