Principal investigator: Jorg Wiezorek, M. Ravi Shankar

University: University of Pittsburgh

Industry partners: AMETEK Reading Alloys

In collaboration with AMETEK Reading Alloys, this research from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) will study technologies to intensify hydride-dehydride (HDH) processes for manufacturing titanium-based powders by up-cycling machining chip feedstock. The proposed research envisions a two-fold impact:

  1. Developing a manufacturing pathway that offers an approximately 50% reduction in the thermal input and energy efficiency of titanium powder manufacturing, enabling cost efficiencies through the process-cycle and by reducing capital investment
  2. Developing a pathway to transform scrap into a high-value stream product-titanium powder stock; instead of remelting-based material recovery, which is both energy- and cost-intensive

Titanium powder stock is a critical input for an array of emerging advanced manufacturing industries in Pennsylvania, including the transportation, biomedical, and aerospace sectors.

The technical approach leverages a discovery by the Pitt team that machining chips produced from industrial manufacturing intrinsically have internal structure attributes, which permit accelerated hydrogen diffusion. We find that utilizing them in HDH instead of currently used feedstocks enables reduced processing temperatures (at least ~200-300K) that can approach ambient. Closing the material cycle by utilizing machining scrap in HDH titanium powder manufacture can result in 50% reduced energy input compared to current industry practice. Supply chains for sorting, sizing, and cleaning scrap are commercially mature and annually recover 25,000 metric tons of titanium, albeit via expensive arc melting which involves large energy inputs: around 15,600 kilowatt-hours per ton. Here, graduate student teams co-advised by Pitt and AMETEK researchers will explore how replacing common bulk format microcrystalline feedstock at AMETEK with machining chips can produce energy savings and cost advantages in HDH powder production. The benchmarking knowledge garnered from pilot experiments at Pitt and AMETEK production facilities will support reconfiguring industrial supply chains, while enabling cheaper, more efficient, and more sustainable approaches to manufacture titanium-based powders.