Extracting a critical mineral from waste
Pioneering a new source of a critical mineral
Scientists at our technology centre in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada, have found a way to get 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 and defence, 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 to power hospitals, data centres and factories, where a steady and reliable power supply 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. If our pilot plant is successful, we will be able to create a scalable, high-quality and low-cost scandium source.
Creating new scandium-aluminium alloys
We are trialling the production of small quantities of high-performance aluminium-scandium master alloys, using scandium oxide. These alloys could be used in a range of industries – from aerospace and defence to sporting goods.
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 aluminium even stronger, more flexible, and more resistant to heat and corrosion. It creates a perfect metal alloy for everyday things that need to be light, strong and manoeuvrable – from sporting equipment like bikes, golf clubs and fishing rods to aeroplanes.
3. We can put waste to good use.
Through our new process, we are able to get 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 do not.