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Titanium: The green metal for the 21st century

George Z. Chen

1. Associate Professor and Reader in Electrochemical Technologies


School of Chemical and Environmental Engineering,
University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK

2. Specially Invited Professor in Electrochemistry


College of Chemistry and Molecular Sciences,
Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, P.R. China

Email: george.chen@nottingham.ac.uk

On-board hydrogen storage has not yet reached beyond 6 wt%, suggesting a
longer time for commercially viable hydrogen powered vehicles to battle against
global warming. The situation would not have been so constraining if car
manufacturers replaced steel components by titanium ones because both are similarly
strong, but titanium is 40 % lighter (and more corrosion resistant). A lighter titanium
car would allow additional load capacity for the heavy hydrogen storage system.
However, titanium (~$8000/tonne-sponge from the Kroll Process) is far more
expensive than steels (~$150/tonne-steel from carbothermic reduction with CO 2
emission) for automobile applications. Titanium can find many other applications,
such as chemical processes and devices, if only the metal could be made cheaper.
William Kroll, the inventor of the industrial titanium extraction process,
predicted in early 1950s that titanium should be made cheaper by electrolysis in 15
years. Half a century later, more affordable titanium is indeed being promised by the
development of the accidentally discovered FFC (Fray-Farthing-Chen) Cambridge
Process in the past decade. This presentation explains this new process in terms of
technical innovation and scientific principles with emphases on the reduction of CO 2
emission from, and economical impact on the metallurgical and automobile industry.