“The improvement of production systems through technologies and processes that utilize resources more efficiently and at the same time produce less wastes - achieving more with less - is an important pathway towards sustainability for business and industry.”
Article 30.4, Agenda 21, United Nations Earth Summit, 1992.
New Zealand is one step closer to full-scale, low-cost titanium alloy production utilising industrial waste thanks to a research team led by Professor Deliang Zhang and Dr Brian Gabbitas at the University of Waikato.
Over the past 10 years, the Titanium Research Team has successfully developed material processing technologies to produce titanium alloy powders and titanium alloy/ceramic composite powders from
titanium oxide and aluminium.
The emphasis has been on low cost, both in the raw materials and the production process.
Titanium alloys are light, strong and high in value, and are used extensively in aerospace and aviation, chemical processing, manufacturing, and in consumer goods. R&D undertaken by the Titanium Research Team has been directed at creating a technological platform for a titanium alloy product manufacturing industry in New Zealand. A spin-off company, Titanox Development Ltd, has been established to commercialise the research.
In order to increase the efficiency of the titanium alloy powder production processes, the team is investigating the possibility of using impure raw materials, like slag from New Zealand Steel Limited, and West Coast iron sands.
The research also focuses on developing lower-cost, internationally competitive methods for consolidating the powders into semi-finished and finished titanium products (including plates, sheets, bars, tubes and application specific shaped parts).
A third research direction is to produce temperature resistant and corrosion-resistant coatings to protect structures and machinery operating in harsh environments.
External funding gratefully acknowledged: Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.
WAIKATO CENTRE FOR ADVANCED MATERIALS, FACULTY OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING