Extracting scandium from waste
Pioneering a new source of a critical mineral
Last updated: 9 November 2022
Scientists at our technology centre in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada, have found a way to extract and purify scandium – a rare and useful metallic element – from titanium dioxide production waste.
Here are three reasons why we’re excited about this breakthrough:
1. The world needs more scandium.
The United States, Canada, Australia and the European Union have listed scandium as a “critical mineral” – meaning it has some very important uses. But it is hard to get your hands on.
Scandium can be used in industries like aerospace, sporting goods and clean technology too. In fact, it is one of the main ingredients used to make solid oxide fuel cells – a new clean energy technology used in hospitals, data centres and factories, where a steady and reliable power back-up is vital.
And even though scandium is found all over the world, it is usually in very small amounts and mixed up with other minerals and metals. So it can be hard to find, and even harder – and more expensive – to process. With our successful plant, we are able to create a scalable, high-quality, reliable and sustainable scandium source.
From a lab to the world
After becoming the first North American producer of scandium in May 2022, when we produced the first batch of high purity scandium oxide at our commercial scale demonstration plant, we’re now planning to quadruple our production capacity to reach up to 12 tonnes of scandium oxide per year, from the current nameplate capacity of three tonnes.
New modules will be added to the existing plant, which uses an innovative process to extract high purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining.
Creating new scandium-aluminium alloys
Using scandium oxide, we’ve developed high-performance aluminium-scandium alloys for use in a range of industries – from aerospace and shipping to sporting goods and 3D printing.
2. Scandium can make a good thing even better.
Scandium and aluminium are kind of like a good book and the beach. They are great on their own, but together they are magic. By mixing scandium with aluminium, you can make some aluminium alloys even stronger, more flexible, and more resistant to heat and corrosion. It creates a perfect metal for everyday things that need to be light, strong and manoeuvrable – from sporting equipment like bikes, golf clubs and baseball bats to aeroplanes.
3. We can put waste to good use.
Through our new process, we can extract high-quality scandium from the waste created from making our titanium dioxide products. That means more of the materials the world needs, and less of the stuff we don't.