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New Technology Produces Cheaper Tantalum and Titanium

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the cheap-thinkpads-for-all dept.

Science 139

Billy the Mountain writes "A small UK company is bringing new technology online that could reduce the prices of tantalum and titanium ten-fold. According to this piece in The Economist: A tantalising prospect, the key is a technique similar to smelting aluminum with a new twist: The metallic oxides are not melted as with aluminum but blended in powder form with a molten salt that serves as a medium and electrolyte. This technology is known as the FFC Cambridge Process. Other metals include Neodymium, Tungsten, and Vanadium."

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someone in Russia just went nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012243)

someone in Russia just went nuts

Re:someone in Russia just went nuts (5, Funny)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012449)

one might even say he threw a tantalum

Re:someone in Russia just went nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012779)

That pun was titanising.

bringing new technology online (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012251)

"A small UK company is bringing new technology online that could reduce the prices of tantalum and titanium ten-fold."

Online... Will it make the tantalum and titanium down-loadable also?

Re:bringing new technology online (2)

oldhack (1037484) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012287)

haha. "Bring it online" is a common management-speak from the "quaint" old days. :)

This is a post that I would have expected from slashdot back in her good old days. I hope there still are some here that are in the know, and chime in with their thoughts.

Thumbs up, lamer.

Re:bringing new technology online (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012361)

Aluminum is mostly made by Rio , and uses subsidized electricity from anyone who wants jobs and a smelter, and heaps of sodium hydroxide - a salt that also 'costs' to produce. Anyone who discovers a way of saving energy inputs will be well rewarded.
Magnesium. like aluminum is basically solidified electricity, so the process sounds good - until the other energy is factored in.
BTW Alum smelters have stirrers that add pressure to the equation - chemists have done their homework, and using aluminum to make aluminum is obviously not likely.

Re:bringing new technology online (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012727)

"A small UK company is bringing new technology online that could reduce the prices of tantalum and titanium ten-fold."

Online... Will it make the tantalum and titanium down-loadable also?

Yeah, you'll just have to download it to your 3D printer, and you print out as much as you want. Tantalum wants to be free.

Slowpoke (0, Flamebait)

WWJohnBrowningDo (2792397) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012309)

From Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

The FFC Cambridge process was developed by George Z. Chen, Derek J. Fray and Tom W. Farthing between 1996 and 1997 in the University of Cambridge.

I realize /. is a little behind the times, but 17 years behind?

Are we going to have stories about Wright brother's magical flying machines next?

Re:Slowpoke (5, Insightful)

JabberWokky (19442) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012341)

Slashdot is certainly prone to error, so I'm not going to defend this specific case, but it's not uncommon for a 17 year lapse between having a process progressing from an academic discovery to an industrial implementation. Using your example, it was a decade between the first flight and the first scheduled commercial flight (heck, even four years to the first passenger).

Re:Slowpoke (4, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012367)

There is quite a difference between developing a process in a lab and making it industrially available. With your argument, the news about the ENIAC being functional in 1946 was no news, because Alan Turing developed the model of the Universal Machine already in 1936.

Re:Slowpoke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012411)

RTFA. It has the same year right in there, and states that they are attempting to commercialize the process.

Re:Slowpoke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012745)

they wanted to wait for the patent to expire ...

Re:Slowpoke (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012927)

Are we going to have stories about Wright brother's magical flying machines next?

You never know [wikipedia.org]

Re:Slowpoke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43013929)

Not really. Because the Wrights did NOT 'invent' the flying machine.

The first 'heavier than air' flight occurred in 1804
The first 'man-carrying heavier than air' flight occurred around 1845
The first 'powered heavier than air' flight occurred around 1848
The first 'man-carrying controlled heavier than air' flight occurred around 1891
The first 'man-carrying powered heavier than air' flight can be claimed to have occurred between 1881-1894

By 1896-1904 various 'man-carrying powered controlled heavier than air' machines were being built, several of which made hops. Langley's Aerodrome epitomised the typical experience - crashing on take-off, but probably capable of flying. Finally the Wrights, with their cautious progressive experiments, managed to combine adequate stability, power and control to obtain a reliable machine.

That was certainly a major advance. But I would not call it 'inventing a flying machine'...

the problem with titanium (1)

gTsiros (205624) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012327)

is not the manufacturing. it's "working" it.

Re:the problem with titanium (4, Informative)

jbeaupre (752124) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012395)

I work with titanium. Buying 500 kg this week. It's not that bad. I'd use more of it if it were cheaper.

You want to talk hard to work with, try gamma titanium aluminide. Blah! And I'm sure there is far worse stuff. Plutonium?

Re:the problem with titanium (5, Funny)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012473)

You want to talk hard to work with, try gamma titanium aluminide.

I think gamma titanium aluminide is managing my project.

Re:the problem with titanium (5, Funny)

jbeaupre (752124) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013169)

Is your manager brittle, expensive, and prone to making weird noises?

Re:the problem with titanium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43014841)

Seems legit.

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

steelfood (895457) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015629)

Flatulence, while occasionally aromatic perhaps, does not count as weird.

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013827)

If only I had mod points... That was great!

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

jadv (1437949) | about a year and a half ago | (#43014717)

In Soviet Russia, gamma titanium aluminide works you!

Re:the problem with titanium (4, Funny)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012739)

I think if you were ordering 500kg of plutonium you would just have made the scariest post ever on slashdot.

Re:the problem with titanium (5, Funny)

ch0rlt0n (1515291) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013063)

Face it, there's probably enough keywords there to have triggered alarm bells at the NSA anyway.

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

tragedy (27079) | about a year and a half ago | (#43016311)

Depends on what isotope really. If it were Plutonium 238, there wouldn't be much to be afraid of. It would produce 122 kilowatts of heat, so storage would be an issue. You'd want to store it in lots of separate containers in a large, cooled space, or even outdoors. You would also need radiation shielding, but only a tiny amount of it. It's also toxic if consumed, but so are lots of things.

So, not necessarily all that scary.

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012849)

Are you making fan blades for a jet engine? Why is gamma titanium aluminide hard to work with?

Re:the problem with titanium (5, Interesting)

jbeaupre (752124) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013145)

I've only used it for prototypes, but nothing aerospace. Which means either very expensive custom tooling for die casting or machining. And it won't quite machine like metal. Grinding works, but that's slow for complex shapes.

It's not impossible to work with, just weird. Vibrates and makes the strangest sounds while machining.

Now that I think about it, boralyn was worse. Tore up machine tools and gummed up grinding tools. You can cast, forge, and weld the stuff. But none of the parts I work with are amenable to those processes.

Re:the problem with titanium (5, Interesting)

morethanapapercert (749527) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013585)

I once posted elsewhere about what *I* think would be great subjects for video.slashdot.org, behind the scenes at the computer room of a major observatory for example. I think getting a video tour of your shop might be equally fascinating. Exotic boron and/or titantium alloys and it's not an aerospace application? I'm guessing racing bicycles or Formula 1 fabrication work. Either way, I'd love to see an interview where you discuss what it's like working with these unusual materials.

Isn't it obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43014961)

Isn't it obvious?

Guns. He's making guns. Ones that you can get through airport security without being detected.

You can sell those for an awful lot of money to the right people.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015523)

With titanium? Try again, but stop to think a bit this time.

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013859)

And I'm sure there is far worse stuff. Plutonium?

Meh, from what I hear plutonium isn't all that hard to work. It machines well enough (the bomb industry can machine it into interesting revolved ellipsoids to fit into MIRV warheads). It is usually found and used as a pure metal. Pure metals tend to be pretty soft and ductile - it is only once you start alloying things that they gain their mechanically useful properties. The main downside is that you can't work it in the open air: the chips will burn, and because plutonium is a fantastically toxic metal, not to mention its radioactivity, you practically have to live in a hazmat suit to handle it.

Re:the problem with titanium (3, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | about a year and a half ago | (#43014019)

You can safely hold a lump of the stuff (scientific samples) with your bare hands. It's warm, but otherwise completely safe because it only emits alpha or beta particles (I forget which). You wouldn't want to eat it or breathe in dust from a machining process, however.

Titanium, the metal of the 21th century (3, Informative)

Eloking (877834) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013861)

Most people, even on slashdot, don’t realize the huge potential of titanium.

It's not only a better metal, it's perfect. In fact, if you mixed together aluminum and stainless steel together and tap the result with a magic wand to remove all its flaw (Resistance to corrosion, acid, rust etc.), you'll get titanium.

Its light as aluminum, strong as steel, completely resistant to corrosion and quite abundant (given, it's not as abundant as iron and aluminum, but it's not that far either. You'll be surprised how much we use Ti in our everyday product). In fact, Ti as the "highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal" (Reference: Wiki). And we're not even talking about alloy yet.

Still, it got two main flaws:

- First it's price. Because the Kroll process (actual process to make Ti) waste Magnesium, Ti cost a lot more than it should. But the new process should drop that problem if it ever enters mass production. And even if it'll always be more costly than aluminum or iron, don't forget that you need way less material to get the job done

- The second flaw is the hash manufacturing process. Because of many factor like the Titanium thermal conductivity, it's a pain to manufacture. But the new advance in 3D printing "could" completely remove that flaw

I may be a dreamer, but the day where you'll buy 3D printed Titanium shovel from your Walmart may not be that far.

Re:Titanium, the metal of the 21th century (5, Interesting)

slinches (1540051) | about a year and a half ago | (#43014995)

Titanium is a very good material, but it isn't perfect. The fatigue capability is relatively low for its strength, especially in cast form. Strength at temperature is good, but far short of nickel based superalloys that are similar in cost. Low ductility and elastic modulus means it isn't easily formable and makes machining more difficult. It has limited resistance to wear due to lower hardenability. Oh, and it can catch on fire under the right conditions.

Although, for many aerospace applications there's no substitute at almost any cost. It allows the weight of parts, that would otherwise need to be made of steel or nickel alloys, to be cut nearly in half (and that adds up quickly since it applies to a large portion of the main structural components in things like jet engines).

If the price does drop drastically, I'd expect to start seeing Ti show up a lot more in areas like the automotive industry, where weight is important but it's use had been limited by cost.

Re:Titanium, the metal of the 21th century (2)

Eloking (877834) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015519)

I'll double-check this, but as far as I know all those flaw can be greatly reduced (if not eleminated) in some Ti alloy.

Re:Titanium, the metal of the 21th century (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43015645)

Titanium, like steel, has a fatigue or endurance limit; a stress below which no fatigue will occur. If a titanium piece is cyclically loaded below the fatigue limit it should never fail. So that's a plus.

 

Re:Titanium, the metal of the 21th century (2)

Artraze (600366) | about a year and a half ago | (#43016069)

Meh.

First: It's 66% heavier than aluminum, and about half the strength of hardened steel.

Don't get me wrong, titanium is pretty good stuff, but it still has trade offs beyond price. After all, it's only about 2-5 more expensive than stainless (depending on type of stainless form factor, etc) so if it was so clearly better, why is it so specialty?

As a comparison:

Aluminum:
Vastly easier machine, vastly easier to cast (much lower melting point).
In terms of strength/weight, aluminum is actually quite competitive with titanium (obviously depending on alloys): it's modulus of elasticity is very slightly better, and it's yield strength is within roughly 20%.
Thus aluminum wins: not only is it's similar to titanium in terms of usable strength, it's more rigid because rigidity depends on the elasticity AND the thickness (i.e. modulus*area*thick^2). (The latter assumes a solid piece; using a 'hollow' design like a tube or ibeam would bring the stiffness of the pieces on-par.)

Stainless Steel:
Somewhat easier to machine and cast. While the melting point is comparable to titanium, titanium's is just hot enough to start causing problems with most common refractories. I'd also worry that it's a lot more reactive with could mean more difficulties. I'm not familiar with the practical casting of it, though, so I could be wrong.
As far as steel is concerned, well, hardened 440C stainless wins in terms of yield strength and elasticity vs weight. It also achieves higher hardness for things like shafts and knives, and can be annealed for easier machining. Of course, one tradeoff is that the strength suffers pretty severely when not hardened (~1/4 of Ti vs weigth), so for larger pieces that can't be hardened effectively, titanium comes out on top. Also, the austenitic stainless steels (e.g. 304, 316) cannot be hardened, and so lack Ti's strength. (And, of course, similar elasticities means titanium will be more rigid, for the same reasons aluminum is.)

Titanium does have its uses though: it had better corrosion resistance, better performance at high temperatures, etc. It's a good material it it's own right to be sure, but it's not perfect. If the price came down to be comparable to stainless I'd expect that usage would take off in a few areas, but especially when you account for difficulty of machining, don't expect to see it everywhere.

Razor blades (2)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year and a half ago | (#43016135)

"Old Spice" markets disposable razors claimed to have blades of titanium. They dull very quickly and become effectively useless about 4 times faster than steel.

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43014305)

I work with titanium. Buying 500 kg this week. It's not that bad. I'd use more of it if it were cheaper.

Much like women!

But I wouldn't get them in 500kg packages.

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year and a half ago | (#43014959)

Oh there is worse stuff. Have fun machining tungsten carbide, I'll be waiting here with a laser in case you decide your regular stuff isn't 'cut' out for the job!

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

weiserfireman (917228) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015395)

We don't machine tungsten carbide in our shop, but we do make some pure tungsten parts

We buy it in 2' long rods from China. We have to buy a years worth at a time, lead time is so bad it is the only feasible way we have found to get any kind of price discount.

Cheaper titanium would be useful for us too.

Re:the problem with titanium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43015471)

Tungsten carbide is pretty straight forward to machine, whether with abrasives or EDM. At worst it just takes time and can consume more of the abrasive or electrode than other materials, but if you had it made into roughly the right shape in the first place, that shouldn't be an issue. I would much rather work on that than on some of the high temperature allows that work harden, requiring you to be very aggressive and take big cuts with a very rigid machine.

Re:the problem with titanium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012429)

Titanium is easy to work - simpler than steel to forge and it's easier to cut than similar strength steels.

Re:the problem with titanium (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012483)

the problem with titanium is that its currently incredibly expensive to refine it from its ore, if the costs of refining it the problems of "working" it aren't major hurdles compared to its . Its already used extensively in Aircraft frames were its weight to strength ratio make it economic despite its high cost. if the cost of refining it dropped by the amounts claimed we would see HUGE increases in the use of titanium.

Re:the problem with titanium (1)

rwise2112 (648849) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013411)

You might be interested in this new process [argex.ca]

Owner "hopes", "thinks" and "hopes" again (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012351)

Perhaps with enough investment, his dreams could become true?

Protip: businesses that have a ready market crying out for the products that they claim to be able to make cheaply don't need to be spending time talking to the press.

Tritanium (2)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012547)

new technology that could reduce the prices of tantalum and titanium ten-fold.
 
Noooooo, my huge cache of veldspar will become worthless! Oh titanium, not tritanium..... never mind.

Re:Tritanium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43013187)

I wish I had mod points :-)

"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (4, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012631)

Reduce the prices ten-fold

Really? I think you're trying to say "reduce by 90%".

Or you could have just quoted TFA : "for less than a tenth of such powderâ(TM)s current price". But that's The Economist, their editors actually care about both the English language and making sense.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012775)

Maybe this company really will be giving away titanium and handing every recipient nine times its value in cash.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012939)

What's wrong with tenfold?

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (3, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013065)

Tenfold = ten times as much. Not one tenth. If you mean "one tenth" SAY "one tenth".
"reduce tenfold" literally means take away ten times. i.e. 1-10 = -9 Since that's nonsense, we can only guess what they actually mean

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/tenfold [oxforddictionaries.com]
tenfold adjective. ten times as great or as numerous:

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43013337)

English isn't my first language so I learned something new today. I tip my hat to you good sir.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43013853)

As a scientist, I hear '-fold' used to refer to both increases and decreases at equal frequencies. 'Reduce by ten-fold' is a normal usage, despite your interpretation of this one dictionary's entry on the word.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015047)

Think of it as the multiplicative inverse. The key word is 'reduce'. If he said: "increased the price tenfold" (to mean costing 10x as much), you wouldn't complain then. So I don't see what's wrong with it.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015177)

The key word is 'reduce'. If he said: "increased the price tenfold" (to mean costing 10x as much), you wouldn't complain then.

Because you can increase tenfold. Not reduce.He actually means reduce by 90%. Or reduce to one tenth. "Tenfold" is nonsense.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015567)

Everyone knew what it meant, including you, but putting that aside, mathematically and logically it is sound because:

Increase 10 fold = Times by 10
Decrease 10 fold = Divide by 10

Even if it isn't commonly used (which I think it is anyway), I'd WANT to put that into common parlance just because it is so logical, concise and reasonable. Don't forget English is still an evolving language.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43015573)

It is only nonsense to people who, despite knowing what it actually means, refuse to acknowledge that it is pretty clear what it means and instead spend their time arguing over a problem that is not actually there.

Such usage is quite common and unambiguous.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

tragedy (27079) | about a year and a half ago | (#43016427)

Reduce ten-fold means "divide by ten". Remember that division is actually repeated subtraction. If you have 13 of something, what do you have to subtract from it 10 times to get 0? The answer is 1.3. That's also, not by coincidence, the answer to "what do you get when you divide 13 by 10?" and "what do you get when you have 13 and reduce it tenfold?"

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013175)

Take the price, say p. Then reduce it by 10p. Reduce means subtract, which leaves us with -9p. Do you see why it doesn't make sense?

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

Bill Dimm (463823) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013909)

On the other hand, if someone says "the price increased tenfold" would they mean the price is now 10p or 11p? Taking the words literally, as you have for reducing tenfold, it would be 11p, but I would guess that most people intend 10p -- not that it's right, but people tend to use such language in a very sloppy manner.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43015475)

On the other hand, if someone says "the price increased tenfold" would they mean the price is now 10p or 11p? Taking the words literally, as you have for reducing tenfold, it would be 11p, but I would guess that most people intend 10p -- not that it's right, but people tend to use such language in a very sloppy manner.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone,"it means just what I choose it to mean --- neither more nor less."

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015811)

From that logic, 'increase' would mean 'add', and yet we know it doesn't in this context of 'tenfold'.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43013831)

Same difference. That's how the English language works. "Tenfold" simply states that there's a ratio. It's left for you to figure out which way the numerator and denominator are placed. Also: "three times smaller" and "twice as small."

If you try to claim some objective logic, analyze "twice as big" then. If something is "as big" one time as it is another time, its as big twice, or "twice as big." No, I don't think so, either.

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (1)

Eowaennor (527108) | about a year and a half ago | (#43014227)

Reduce tenfold seems legit, I've heard that used before meaning N / 10, increase tenfold would be N * 10

Re:"Reduce the prices ten-fold"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43014381)

They're confusing "reduce x-fold" with "x times less", which is a common and nonsensical marketing term.

They're trying to say the same thing, but only one of them works. The other one makes you sound like a marketing goon.

Poster fails to read TFA - as usual (5, Interesting)

Freestyling (997523) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012729)

Seriously, do the people posting these stories ever read TFA?

"The metallic oxides are not *melted as with aluminum* but blended in powder form with a molten salt that serves as a medium and electrolyte."

Wrong! The Hall-Héroult process (main Al production method) is exactly that! Dissolving alumina in molten cryolite to allow electrolysis without heating to alumina's melting point.

So actually the apparent amazing breakthrough turns out to be, "oh hey, they found a new solvent to dissolve things in".

Accurate facts please guys, leave the sensationalising by omission to the tabloids.

Re:Poster fails to read TFA - as usual (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012869)

Well, whichever process, as long as it drops the price of Ti, it will increase my schadenfreude.
I slaved as a supervisor for a "high tech" scrapyard that makes loads of money from machine shop turnings of many Ti alloys.
One piss test and a policy that violates my freedom of religion (literally cannabis is a sacrament and anointment, no I'm not Rasta) and they fired me.
Most of their money came from Ti reclamation and they invested heavily in new equipment at this and other world locations.
Moral of the story; don't mess with the children of mighty YHVH or he will tank your business and put your ass in bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, I am thankfully in a cushy job now paying just as much and I don't have to oversee the lazy activities of others. Elohim be praised!

Re:Poster fails to read TFA - as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012963)

go back to your orgies you raellian

Re:Poster fails to read TFA - as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43015561)

I got some bad news for you then. Even if titanium were a tenth of the current cost, money could still be made a plenty from the recycling of turnings. Shops I've worked in got paid quite a bit for collection of aluminum and iron turnings and waste (separate from the larger scrap pieces), so there is still plenty of business opportunity there.

Re:Poster fails to read TFA - as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012893)

rate the facts guys...

some of us are girls you insensitive clod!

actually thats not true, as you were.

Re:Poster fails to read TFA - as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43014311)

All the guys pretending to be lesbians on /. really are gay.

There are no women on their 'private' IRC channel.

Re:Poster fails to read TFA - as usual (1)

ganv (881057) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013559)

Economist tech news seems to always have these breathless descriptions of new technologies that will change everything without bothering to understand the underlying science. Why let facts get in the way of a story that sells? At the root of it, I think some economists realize that the model of continuous exponential growth used in their models depends on continuous revolutionary break-throughs in energy technology and basic materials. Since the recent reality has only had incremental changes, they feel pressed to make up revolutions in hope that it will save their models.

This is not new (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43012881)

New Technology?

From the 1990s...

Yeah, Slashdot, I'm fucking sick and tired of you. You were bad before Dice took over, and now you're just laughable. It's really pathetic, if you think about it. Fortunately for you and whatever Busch league MBA you hired fresh out of University of Phoenix to run Slashdot, you are incapable of thought.

Idiots. Every last goddamn one of you.

When all said and done (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year and a half ago | (#43012943)

"A small UK company is bringing new technology online that could reduce the prices of tantalum and titanium ten-fold.

When all said and done, who doesn't like cheap tan and tits

Re:When all said and done (2)

pokeparadox (2740729) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013055)

Not with ten folds.

Re:When all said and done (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015661)

When all said and done, who doesn't like cheap tan and tits

Me.

I find Katie Price/Jordan and others who go for that particular look quite unattractive.

Don't worry buyers (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013149)

Don't worry buyers; the manufacturers will be sure to pass this four-fold cost reduction on to you, their valued customer!

If they can scale up this process.... (5, Insightful)

MtViewGuy (197597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013189)

It could literally change the world.

Titanium--which is actually common in the soil--is an amazingly strong metal that is also quite corrosion resistant and can withstand very temperatures. Even with the expensive production processes used up till now, titanium was favored by the aerospace industry because of its strength and heat resistance and for making propeller blades for ship screws because they withstood the corrosive effects of seawater.

With a vastly cheaper production process, it could make it possible to substantially lighten the weight of automobiles--which has the benefit of either lower petrol/diesel fuel consumption or needing a smaller battery pack (in the case of electric cars). And it means high-speed trains can be vastly lighter while still meeting safety standards for passenger train cars, which means smaller and more efficient traction motors on electric multiple unit (EMU) passenger trains.

Re:If they can scale up this process.... (1)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013373)

No mod points, but you deserve them.

Re:If they can scale up this process.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43013789)

I do hope you're right, but, as per usual, my mind immediately heads off to the land of unforeseen consequences, to wit: That delightful decrease in vehicle weight, while saving zillions in energy costs, will come with its own hidden cost in the form of wind.

As it stands now, only high-profile vehicles need worry about getting blown off the road when the wind really gets to roaring. Blizzards, Santa Ana's, Tropical Cyclones, that sort of thing.

Now imagine some of those photos we've all seen of tractor trailers blown off of the roadway commingled with a cohort of automobiles.

Nobody will consider this, nor do the least thing by way of mitigating against it, until the first high-profile event occurs, likely with a significant loss of life (read: numerous common folk, or one celebrity).

But I still hope you're right.

Re:If they can scale up this process.... (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015229)

FUD pure FUD
Tractor trailers getting blown over aren't because of weight but because of the huge cross sectional area they present from the side. As far as vehicles getting blown all over the road it also is more a function of cross sectional area than weight. I have driven a Geo Metro and that got blown around less than my Jeep Cherokee and things like that can be mitigated by better under vehicle aerodynamics.

Re:If they can scale up this process.... (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015335)

There has already been a subtle shift in design aesthetic for commuter vehicles toward designs that aerodynamically hug the road. Reducing the weight of vehicles would indeed make them more likely to get blown around, so I would expect that swept surface aesthetic to continue in force, so that wind blown over the vehicle shoves it down onto the road.

This would be especially important for luxury sports cars, since their market demographic is "rich thill seeker who likes to drive really fast." The same issue of vehicle flipover from wind would occur in a very fast moving, very light vehicle. (Strap some wings on, and you have an airplane, basically.) This means that aerofoil designs would be an absolute necessity for maintaining road safety for such vehicles.

I would expect to see hood and tail "spoiler bars" that perform this function, with a higher up ride, and a lowered center of gravity.

(Remember, an airplane's wing is swept to have a greater length of curvature on the top surface than on the bottom one, because the increased air velocity the air assumes to clear the greater distance reduces pressure on the top compared to the bottom. This is what lifts the airplane. We want the opposite. We want air to travel faster underneath the vehicle than over the top, so that atmospheric pressure forces the vehicle down onto the ground. For that, we would need a larger airgap between the ground and the chasis frame to accommodate that airflow. The vehicle might look a little funny, but it would solve the "wind makes it blow away" problem.)

Re:If they can scale up this process.... (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year and a half ago | (#43016403)

There are many factors contributing to designing a car so that it has negative aerodynamic lift, and I don't know them all. Nonetheless: at high speeds the underbody front and sides should be close to the ground, the rear high. The high rear creates a partial vacuum under the car, the low front and sides reduce the loss of that vacuum. The goal is not to "accommodate airflow" but prevent airflow.

Re:If they can scale up this process.... (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015115)

It isn't just the overall of weight of an automobile that can be lightened (we already have methods for that) but lightening the reciprocating mass of a vehicle. It won't work for things like cams or cranks due to the various titanium alloys being less ridged than the steel alloys at a given thickness but for things like gears, rods, and rockers it is a great option and is already used in very high performance engines where cost is not an option. Even though a thicker crank and cam made of titanium is still lighter than a steel one it still has a disadvantage of increased friction, due to increased bearing speed, which offsets the gains of having lighter components, where as things like rods and rockers don't have this issue. Some gears on high performance engines are already aluminum alloys but those are fairly low stress (timing gears most notably) but they still have steel teeth since aluminum would wear too quickly, so it would be possible to replace that steel with titanium for a modest decrease in reciprocating mass. You wouldn't see titanium pistons as forged aluminum alloy ones are already common place as they already can handle the stresses on them and are still lighter than titanium alloy ones would be. Now for things that don't need to be as ridged like drive shafts (propeller shafts as some call them), axles, or half shafts titanium would be a viable option there as well to decrease reciprocating mass.

On the whole decreasing mass on vehicles is a good thing especially if the low mass components are as strong or stronger than the ones they replaced. There are already companies looking into using aluminum body panels that are lighter and just as strong as the mild steel ones currently used, the most notable is Fords planned usage in their upcoming F series trucks which is expected to save around 700 pounds.

Recycling and peak production (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43016309)

This development may lower things for a while and raise demand for a while until more expensive sources are found to replace the cheap ones that ran out quickly (due to increased demand.) This will be the peak for that resource and it'll not ever likely do that again. It may not even peak that much with the delay in production rate increase and the commodity traitors (misspelling intentional.)

The real problem long term is recycling. We don't recycle most materials and won't until they become rare enough or costly enough to make recycling cost competitive. It might be already except that mining land fills is going to need many rare materials to start mining them... especially the ones where communities have been built on top.

Titanium will become obsolete. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013321)

This new technology would become obsolete as soon as we find a good source for unobtainium. But the smart money is on the administranium that would thwart any competitor from emerging.

Re:Titanium will become obsolete. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43013583)

This new technology would become obsolete as soon as we find a good source for unobtainium. But the smart money is on the administranium that would thwart any competitor from emerging.

Would it not then stop being unobtanium and instead transmogrify to easilyobtanium?

Tantalum won't be much effected (4, Interesting)

Troyusrex (2446430) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013347)

I happen to live close to the largest Tantalum processor in the world and so I've been following tantalum movements for a long time. The main constraint on Tantalum as it is isn't processing cost but supply of the mineral.

At CURRENT extraction rates there's less than a 50 year supply so making the processing cheaper will just make it run out faster.It's possible some new sources will be found, but no apparent ones are on the horizon.

Re:Tantalum won't be much effected (1)

Dishwasha (125561) | about a year and a half ago | (#43014965)

Looking on or over the horizon in to outer space is much more difficult than looking up. Don't you know we'll be getting our tantalum from freakin' asteroids [slashdot.org] ?

reducing the cost of refined titanium by 90% (1)

voss (52565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013519)

Would be almost the start of a titanium revolution in industry. It would reduce the cost of everything from boat propellers to aircraft to bicycles.

Re:reducing the cost of refined titanium by 90% (1)

arse maker (1058608) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013649)

I wouldnt count on it :)

Re:reducing the cost of refined titanium by 90% (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43014457)

What? You think that the manufacturers wont pass on the savings to their customers? I can't believe that would happen. I mean, they would have to be incredibly greedy.

Re:reducing the cost of refined titanium by 90% (1)

frinkster (149158) | about a year and a half ago | (#43015489)

What? You think that the manufacturers wont pass on the savings to their customers? I can't believe that would happen. I mean, they would have to be incredibly greedy.

Manufacturers would certainly avoid passing savings on to their customers as long as they can get away with it, but it would never last. The first manufacturer to reduce price by 10% (and still earn an exorbitant profit) to gain even a sliver of market share would trigger a price war that permanently brings the cost in line with reality.

This is rubbish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43013669)

... Wake me up when it happens in some important country, like the US.

P.S. We won't use it in any case. Because it wasn't invented it over here. Until we say it was. I 'll get onto the Wiki about that this afternoon...

Vibranium is better! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43013689)

Adamantium is to hard to work with. It's a bitch when it cools. :(

Cheaper Unobtanium (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year and a half ago | (#43013709)

The world needs cheaper unobtanium, the big blue Smurfs put up a good fight.

Search for cheap Ti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43014289)

The search for cheap Ti has been going longer than Hunter and Kroll. They have tried all kinds of vapor phase and liquid salt reductions. Even if this new process worked you would not see cheap Ti. The purification and processing of Ti tends to be a pain in the behind. On the other hand I hope it works. A drop in price of 50% would open lots of new markets and uses. The oxide on the outside, like Al, is quite strong which results in Ti (and Ta, and Zr) being a excellent corrosion resistant material.

Will not reduce the price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43014479)

Of the finished product. That price is determined by the same commodity traders that control the London Metals Market. These are the same thieves that control the price of all commodities. From the corn in your breakfast cereal to the gasoline in your car, the world's economies are held hostage by these speculators.

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