Titanium has been used in jewellery and bicycles, 3D printing and heavy industrial parts, even in the cyborg exoskeleton in the 1987 film Robocop, now moves are afoot to establish a new refining process that could make Australia a titanium leader.
According to Australia’s peak research organisation, the CSIRO, Australia has the biggest deposits of ilmenite and rutile – titanium’s base minerals – in the world. It extracts and refines the material, but doesn’t process it in large quantities, missing out on a lucrative revenue stream.
Extracting and refining the mineral sand into the metallic form is labour intensive and wasteful, but titanium’s strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and biocompatibility make it ideal for aerospace, medical and sport applications.
Currently 95 per cent of the mineral sand mined is used in an oxide form, the pure white colour crucial in products from paint to cosmetics.
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