DuPont, Partner Seek New Titanium Process | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: September 14, 2006

DuPont, Partner Seek New Titanium Process

Government backs consortium that will improve costs, ensure supply of titanium metal
Department: Business

A Defense Department agency responsible for overseeing the development of new technology for the military has awarded $5.7 million to a two-company consortium to develop a new process for making titanium metal powder.

DuPont will supply titanium dioxide as the raw material and Tucson-based Materials & Electrochemical Research will provide the technology for converting the pigment to titanium metal powder.

The powder, under heat and pressure, will be used to create lightweight items ranging from armor plating to components for the aerospace, transportation, and chemical industries. The new process is expected to improve costs by reducing the amount of energy it currently takes to convert titanium ore to titanium metal by more than 50%.

The project is backed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's central R&D organization. DARPA is widely credited with the development of the Internet, as well as stealth technology for aircraft. Leo Christodoulou, a DARPA program manager, says the project is aimed at developing "a truly revolutionary approach to ensuring the supply of what is becoming a strategic material for our country."

Concerned about future availability, large titanium users such as the aircraft industry have been locking in supply contracts for the metal. Last month, for example, Boeing signed a long-term contract with the Russian titanium producer VSMPO-Avisma that the latter values at $18 billion.

"We see tremendous opportunities to develop new titanium-related technologies to help us expand beyond our historical core business," says Richard C. Olson, vice president and general manger of DuPont Titanium Technologies. DuPont lays claim to being the world's largest producer of titanium dioxide pigment.

If the two-year project is successful, DuPont plans to investigate large-scale commercialization.??

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