While Scandium is relatively scarce at this time, there is significant potential for growth in trade of the metal provided supply increases. The properties of scandium-aluminum alloys in particular make the material promising for many markets.

Scandium is appealing to many industries, and the properties of scandium-aluminum alloys in particular make the material promising for many markets.

While Scandium is relatively scarce at this time, there is significant potential for growth in trade of the metal provided supply increases. If a cost-effective supply of scandium were to become available, two markets would be most likely to consume the metal at scale – solid oxide fuel cells and aluminum-scandium alloys.

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC)

Should scandium supply sources increase, the solid oxide fuel cell market would be able to use between two and five times the amount of scandium it currently consumes.

Fuel cells function by converting oxygen and a fuel source into an electrical current, water, carbon dioxide and heat. Theses cells include solid electrolytes made from hard ceramics for which scandium could be used as a stabilizing agent. The operation of a fuel cell is exothermic and as reactants are available and the internal environment is hot enough, the reaction will remain continuous.

Fuel cells have existed for more than a century, and NASA has used them as a power supply source on spaceships in the past. There are several types of fuel cells, but solid oxide fuel cells are currently the best in terms of efficiency, flexibility and low pollution.

Scandium is an excellent choice as the stabilizing agent for the zirconia in the solid electrolyte in solid oxide fuel cells – it’s a better electrical conductor than yttrium, which is usually used. That means the reaction within cells can take place at lower temperatures, lowering the cost of materials required for thermal shielding. Fuel cells can be used for industrial and commercial applications to produce cost-efficient electricity. There are many companies in this space today, and a good number would likely use scandium if the metal were available.

Aluminum-scandium alloys

Aluminum-scandium alloys have a number of benefits including good heat tolerance and weldability as well as a strength that approaches the level of steel. Air transportation industry researchers at the EADS Group – which includes Airbus Industries, Eurocopter and ASTRIUM, among others – have been working for some time with scandium-aluminum alloys and their applications. Planes could benefit significantly from some parts being made of scandium-aluminum alloys due to the lightness and strength of the material. There is precedent for this, as Russia crafted its MIG jets from this material during the Cold War.

Another possibility would be the use of scandium-aluminum alloys in additive layer manufacturing, which prints 3D CAD models out of metal. As with other types of 3D printing, the use of scandium-aluminum alloys could potentially revolutionize parts of the manufacturing industry. In particular, scandium could be used to create custom parts at any necessary scale without significant material loss in this way. Certainly, the aluminum alloy industry would welcome any new and reliable supply of scandium.

Featured

NioCorp Developments reports the successful production of an aluminum-scandium (AlSc) master alloy using a new metallurgical process.

NioCorp Developments (TSX:NB,OTCQX:NIOBF) reports the successful production of an aluminum-scandium (AlSc) master alloy using a metallurgical process. The production of the alloy evidences that there is a commercial pathway to potential production of the master alloy.

As quoted from the press release:

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Scandium International Files New Mine Lease Application

New South Wales revoked the mine lease for the Nyngan project, which was issued in 2017, due to a procedural error on its part.

After its mine lease was deemed invalid in mid-April, critical metals explorer Scandium International (TSX:SCY) has filed a new mine lease application in New South Wales, Australia.

The New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment revoked the mine lease for the Nyngan project, which was issued in 2017, due to a procedural error on its part.

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Aside from the three granted patents, the company has an additional 10 US patents pending, as well as corresponding Australian patents.

Australia-focused Scandium International (TSX:SCY) has received three patents for its proprietary intellectual property designed around the extraction and recovery processes for scandium.

The patents relate to the extraction and recovery of scandium from ores, solutions and byproducts; the conversion of scandium intermediates into master alloy and the composition and manufacturing of certain commercial scandium-containing alloys.

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