Poerschke leads research team awarded Minnesota Futures Grant

June 9, 2021 - CEMS Assistant Professor David Poerschke is the principal investigator on a collaborative research project that was funded as part of the Minnesota Futures Grant Program by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR). The Minnesota Futures Grant Program offers funding each year to promote research that incorporates new, cross-disciplinary ideas. For the 2021 grant cycle, OVPR awarded a total of $500,000 to two projects.

Poerschke, along with co-investigators Matthew Aro (Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth) and Professor Uwe Kortshagen (Department of Mechanical Engineering), received funding for their project, “Nonthermal Plasma Processes for Sustainable Extraction and Processing of Minnesota’s Titanium Resources.”

Titanium is a crucial component to aerospace and automotive alloys, medical implants, and catalysts. Minnesota has valuable titanium mineral resources but lacks an environmentally sustainable and economically viable approach to extracting and processing these resources.

This project aims to develop technology that uses nonthermal plasmas to transform the intermediate chemical precursors generated from titanium ores directly into titanium and titanium alloy powders. These powders could be used directly (e.g. as catalysts), as feedstocks for advanced manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, or consolidated into a bulk form as an input for traditional manufacturing approaches.

The collaborative research between David Poerschke and Uwe Kortshagen will answer fundamental scientific questions about the physical and chemical transformations within the plasmas and how they impact the crystal structure and chemical purity of the product. Matthew Aro will lead an integrated effort at NRRI to employ a prospective life cycle assessment methodology, to evaluate the new technology’s potential environmental risks at key decision points to guide its development.

This technology stands to reduce or minimize environmentally and economically disadvantageous process steps in the conventional titanium refining processes and open up opportunities to utilize abundant, untapped mineral and renewable energy resources within Minnesota to invigorate the regional manufacturing enterprise.