Stopping magnesium oxidation
A lot of the current commercial production methods for magnesium rely on silicothermic and electrolytic processes, where the mineral ore is extracted.
Magnesium is a very reactive metal so one of the biggest challenges with these processes is the tendency for magnesium to revert to magnesium oxide as the reaction products cool.
Cooling greater than the speed of sound
We created a new process for magnesium production, which relies on carbothermal reduction and a supersonic nozzle, to rapidly cool the magnesium vapour, preventing the reversion reaction.
Our researchers engineered a system that allows ultra-rapid quenching (cooling) of magnesium vapour as it is produced. At high-temperature, magnesium vapour and carbon monoxide gas, produced via carbothermal reduction, is passed through a Laval nozzle at four times the speed of sound. The nozzle is essentially a rocket engine, cooling the gases in milliseconds. The magnesium rapidly condenses and solidifies, and can then be separated from the carbon monoxide, resulting in magnesium metal.
Magnesium powder may be recovered from the process directly, or high-purity metal ingot can be produced after distillation.
Supersonic award winner
We are working with industry partners to take Magsonic from the lab and demonstrate magnesium production technology at scale – a move that could help to reinvigorate the metal production industry in Australia and globally.
Cleaner and cheaper availability of this lightweight metal will have flow on effects such as lighter more fuel efficient vehicles and aerospace components, and as an alloying element for aluminium.
MagSonic technology received the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) innovation and excellence award for Sustainable Technology.