CSIRO to improve powder efficiency for titanium components

Australia’s CSIRO has teamed-up with the US Energy Department Laboratory to explore ways to improve powder efficiency for use in titanium components.

[Image: John Barnes, Leader of CSIRO Titanium Technologies.]

The project is designed to get more from Australia’s ore, by fostering a manufacturing industry that can deliver high value-add titanium products from its natural resources.

The CSIRO has signed a memorandum of understanding with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) – a department of the US Energy Department Laboratory – and the duo will work together on new powders to be used as feedstock for the components for the production of titanium.

According to the CSIRO, the project could increase Australia’s export earnings by a factor of 100 in comparison with unprocessed ore.

“Titanium is strong, light, and resistant to corrosion, fatigue and cracking and is currently used in high-end markets such as aerospace where its superior performance is considered worth the cost of production,” said CSIRO.

“These properties would be of benefit across many other markets if production costs were lowered.”

According to John Barnes, Leader of CSIRO Titanium Technologies, CSIRO and ORNL have been working separately up until now on the emerging area of ‘kinetic metal production’.

“We’ve each worked on different types of powders and with the world-class science capability at each facility, we can complement each other to improve our fundamental understanding,” he said.

In July last year, Barnes was appointed as the leader of the CSIRO's Titanium technologies theme, with the aim to turn the country's natural wealth into high-wage jobs for Australians, and high-value products for the world.

He said at the time that if we converted just 1% of the nation's ore reserves each year to metal for high-value manufactured items, we would achieve the same annual export earnings – for another 9,000 years.

Titanium's phenomenal performance characteristics are especially critical to the aerospace industry. In his previous job, Barnes was a Senior Manager with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Skunk Works, working on the development of advanced fighter jets, including the F-22 'Raptor' stealth air superiority fighter and the F-35 'Lightning II' stealth aircraft. He has also worked with Honeywell suppling marine gas turbine engines for fast patrol boats and megayachts.

CSIRO’s Future Manufacturing National Research Flagship will now work with ONRL to develop science and technologies for titanium, titanium powders, and the manufacture of titanium components.

Special attention will be paid to applying kinetic metal production to products that can be produced from a particulate precursor, such as continuous sheet production of titanium via roll compaction.

Bill Peter, Leader of the Materials Processing and Manufacturing Group of ORNL said: “Between ORNL and CSIRO, there is substantial understanding of powder handling, morphology, characteristics and effects in processing which likely can’t be found elsewhere in the world, and are critical for developing affordable methods of making titanium components and products, such as sheet for heat exchange and desalination.” 

He says the collaboration has the ability to provide a paradigm shift in the way we manufacture titanium components with leaner, cleaner manufacturing using powder output from entirely new and innovative production methods.