Tuesday, June 12, 2018

News: Australian Mines joins Metalysis R&D project

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Metal exploration business, Australian Mines Ltd, has joined with Rotherham-based Metalysis and other partners on an R&D programme focused on a high value aluminium-scandium alloy.

The Manvers company holds the worldwide exploitation rights to a process which sees specialist powder metals created in a simple, cost effective process with significant environmental benefits.

Backed by investors, experts at the multimillion pound Materials Discovery Centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, are carrying out bespoke, commercial R&D projects to produce exotic metal powders for high performance alloys in the aerospace and automotive industries.

The aluminium-scandium ("AlSc") alloy programme has affirmed the view that Metalysis' process could address challenges that have historically restricted the industrial use of scandium despite its excellent properties.

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Scandium is a relatively scarce, high-value mineral used to produce aluminium alloys. Scandium-reinforced alloys are suitable for the manufacture of weldable aluminium products such as car chassis, car panels and aircraft fuselages and other light transport applications.

Although there are primary production scenarios under development, it is largely mined as a by-product with little surety of supply. As an alloy addition, scandium can as much as triple manufacturing costs at current pricing.

Cost and supply constraints are two challenges Metalysis has focused on - its electrochemical technology is capable of producing a wide range of metals and alloys at a lower cost and environmental footprint than traditional melting processes.

Metalysis has already demonstrated an ability to produce an AlSc master alloy containing 15 times the amount of scandium compared to conventional industry processes.

Now Australian Mines is utilising its demonstration plant in Perth to deliver the high-purity scandium oxide to Metalysis, under this R&D partnership. The company is focused on production and supply of battery and technology metals.

An update to the Austrailian stock exchange said: "The ability for Australian Mines to produce a scandium-rich master alloy via Metalysis' solidstate process that contains up to 30% scandium metal (compared to the industry's current 2% scandium metal), could result in up to a 93% reduction in the amount of scandium master alloy required to produce the final aluminium – scandium metal requested by end-users.

"This could equate to a significant reduction in the cost of producing the final aluminium – scandium metal to a level that the contract price offered by Australian Mines for these lightweight aluminium products are materially lower than most other specialty metals currently available on the market."

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Metalysis said that the R&D programme is also destined to benefit the company's Materials Manufacturing Centre in Manvers, which houses its "Generation 4" industrial scale production facility.

Being modular, Gen4 builds on Generations 1-3 of Metalysis' technology and is capable of producing hundreds of tonnes of speciality powder alloys. A high value AlSc alloy continues to prove compelling as a potential launch product when Gen4 commercial production commences later in 2018.

£12m in funding was secured earlier this year and work is already underway on "Generation 5" - manufacturing options for thousands of tonnes per annum of these high value metal alloy powders. It is designed to retrofit into an existing industrial site.

Metalysis website
Australian Mines Ltd website

Images: Australian Mines

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