Everyone knows how cool titanium is, so why is plain old steel still so popular? Because titanium can cost more than $40 per pound while steel is closer to $1 per pound. Fortunately Donald Sadoway from MIT has founded a company called Avanti Metal that is planning to use a new process that will drastically reduce the cost of refining titanium.
Now a startup, Avanti Metal, using technology developed at MIT, hopes to commercialize a process that drastically reduces the cost of producing titanium, making more of it available for large, lighter-weight airplanes. The process, developed by MIT chemist Donald Sadoway, applies an environmentally benign, direct electrolysis method to make the metal.
Titanium is naturally abundant. But processing titanium oxide found in the ground to make a usable metal is slow and produces toxic waste. "The price of titanium has gone through the roof," says Corby Anderson, director of the Center for Advanced Mineral and Metallurgical Processing at the University of Montana. "It's double what it was this time last year -- and last year it was pretty high."
Jeffrey Sabados, president of the four-person Avanti, estimates that, based on production plans published by Boeing and Airbus, there'll be a 30,000-ton shortage of titanium by 2010. He claims that Avanti's process for refining titanium could slash costs to about $3 per pound. Then, if the metal then sells for even $25 per pound, an estimate he calls conservative, it's a huge potential profit.
Ah, capitalism, is there anything it can't do? Plus, y'know, science and stuff.