An Australian global minerals group is taking an 18 per cent stake in a South Yorkshire firm behind a revolutionary, eco-friendly process to produce metals and metal powders from ore.
Iluka Resources is investing £12.2 million in Wath upon Dearne company Metalysis after seeing how Metalysis’s technology can produce powdered titanium directly from Iluka’s stocks of rutile, one of five forms of titanium dioxide found in nature.
Perth-based Iluka lays claim to being the largest producer of the high grade rutile and synthetic rutile.
It says that becoming a major shareholder in Metalysis and funding partner gives it access to a new, potentially disruptive technology which is close to commercialisation
Metalysis chairman, Master Cutler Tony Pedder, said: “This gives us a chance to take things forward.
“My wish now is to build the next generation plant and I would love to build it in South Yorkshire.
“Iluka’s expertise in titanium dioxide as a feedstock, process engineering experience and access to global markets can make a significant impact on Metalysis’ development.
“The Metalysis process has applications across metals in the periodic table, including titanium, tantalum and rare earths and with Iluka’s access to titanium dioxide feedstock there is the potential to produce titanium powder with much greater efficiency and at a much lower cost than is currently possible.”
As part of the deal, Iluka gets a non-exclusive world-wide licence to use Metalysis technology to produce titanium powder in return for a royalty on normal commercial terms and the right of first refusal over future titanium metal licences.
The Metalysis process uses electrolysis in a bath of molten salts to turn solid oxides into pure metals, alloys and carbides and works for a wide range of metals.
It replaces traditional processes, condemned in a Global Cleantech report as highly inefficient, slow and chemically hazardous.
The same report hailed Metalysis’s system as offering dramatically reduced costs and improved environmental impacts through the use of sustainable and recyclable materials, requiring less power and producing less waste.
The process can also be used to produce alloys of metals like tungsten and titanium that are normally incompatible due to differences in their melting points.
Alloy powders produced using the process could then be used to make ingots or to develop novel alloys with improved performance, which could take the place of existing high performance alloys and stainless steels, used for their corrosion resistance and strength.
Metalysis recently joined forces with Sheffield University’s Department of Materials to make aerospace and automotive parts from titanium produced by the company’s process, using a 3D printer, made by the Renishaw group.