2021 Minnesota Futures Award Goes to Research on Sustainable Approaches to Minnesota's Titanium Resources

ME Professor Uwe Kortshagen is serving as co-investigator on an award-winning project that stands to maximize untapped renewable energy sources within Minnesota in a sustainable way. Kortshagen, along with PI David Poerschke (CEMS) and co-investigator Matthew Aro (NNRI, UMD), were awarded a Minnesota Futures Award to pursue their research initiative, "Nonthermal Plasma Processes for Sustainable Extraction and Processing of Minnesota's Titanium Resources." 

From OVPR's Inquiry

About the Project

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.

About Minnesota Futures

Modeled after the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, the Minnesota Futures program supports extraordinary research by nurturing interdisciplinary ideas. The program helps develop projects to a point where they become competitive for external funding.

Since 2008, Minnesota Futures has supported research by faculty who go on to win substantial grants and whose innovations reach the market to potentially improve the lives of millions. The grants, supported by technology commercialization revenue, cover expenses of up to $250,000 over two years.