A cheaper, greener way to produce titanium

Year 2003
Project team Donald Sadoway

Direct electrolysis

Since its discovery, titanium has been used in new alloys and production techniques to meet ever-tighter standards for high-temperature performance, corrosion resistance, strength, and metallurgical structure. Unfortunately, producing titanium involves a multi-step, high-temperature batch process that is costly and thus prevents the metal from being used in even more applications. A recent Department of Defense study found that, due to the current state of manufacturing, titanium is produced at only about 1/20th of its current potential world volume. This project is developing a way to produce titanium through direct electrolysis. Stable, low-cost, and environmentally benign, the method could reduce the cost of producing titanium by 50 percent and thus open up new markets for the metal. Not only that, it produces just one, clean, marketable by-product: oxygen. Assuming that alternatives to the current technology would be far too costly to implement, titanium producers have been slow to pursue disruptive new technologies. However, the prospect of producing titanium cheaper and greener through electrolysis has sparked the interest of key players in the industry.

Boston Metal

The technology from this project spun out into a company, Boston Metal.