Based on fluidised bed technology, CSIRO’s novel TiRO™ process produces commercially pure titanium faster and at less cost than traditional methods.
Australia has the world’s largest economic reserves of titanium ore, yet there are no Australian metal production or fabrication industries to realise the full economic potential of this resource.
The primary commercial process used for titanium metal production, the Kroll process, has been in place since 1948.
Its batch nature and the numerous post-production refining steps required make it a high-cost process.
It has also been widely criticised for its:
lack of process intensity
poor metal yield
adverse environmental impacts.
The TiRO™ process
Drawing on CSIRO’s expertise in fluidised bed technology (where solid particles suspended in a gas act like a fluid) Light Metals Flagship researchers have developed a process that cuts the cost of titanium metal powder production.
The TiRO™ process is based on the continuous reduction of titanium tetrachloride with magnesium, producing a titanium powder.
The process is very efficient and, if successful, is expected to reduce the size of the unit operations required and therefore reduce the operating and capital costs.
The TiRO™ technology should also provide great flexibility in terms of the shape and size of the titanium particles it produces.
This would give the technology a real edge in the fabrication step, where the powders can be consolidated directly, thereby avoiding a further remelt step.
The team has developed a pilot plant capable of producing titanium of commercial purity at the rate of 200 grams per hour.
Having exceeded success criteria for the proof-of-concept stage, the team is proceeding with the design of a proof-of-system facility which will have a nominal capacity of two kilograms per hour of titanium metal powder.
Aspects of this development stage will include demonstrating integration and optimising engineering factors such as process control, materials of construction and scale-up.
This phase is also intended to produce larger quantities of sample to facilitate third-party evaluation and the development of consolidation/fabrication technologies.