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Extracting elemental titanium from Titanium Dioxide

Q. I want to know if there is any method of extracting elemental Titanium from titanium dioxide [on eBay or Amazon affil links] ? It's insoluble so that rules electrolysis out, correct? Is there any way to do it chemically (I'm sure there is, but what does it involve?). Or by heating it with something else like oxygen (guess that's still chemically)? I don't really care about the complexity of the method, just a brief explanation. This is a plan for a high school science project, so, if it seems beyond my resources, I can always choose something else. (But for curiosity sake, I'd still like to know)

Patrick R.
Grade 11 Student - Kentucky, USA


A. Hi Patrick.

No, you can't get elemental titanium from the oxide. Titanium reacts with air at higher temperatures. Look up the "Kroll Process" on the net and it will explain. There is also a newer method called the "FFC Cambridge Process" that might be worth a gander. I would look for something else for your project. Very good question though. Keep up the good work!

Trent Kaufman
Trent Kaufman
electroplater - Galva, Illinois

A. Patrick,
Firstly, congratulations on actually showing some interest in a science project and wanting to find out more FOR THE SAKE OF IT! This makes a very pleasant change from students just wanting someone to do their homework for them. Unfortunately you have chosen a process that can't really be done in schools. To extract titanium from it's ore, you need to convert the ore (titanium dioxide) to the tetrachloride (TiCl4). This is done by heating the ore, with a mixture of chlorine gas and carbon to produce a liquid with a melting point of -24 °C. The titanium tetrachloride is then reacted with either sodium or magnesium metal at red hot temperatures either in a vacuum furnace or an argon atmosphere. The sodium or magnesium reacts to form either sodium chloride or magnesium chloride and titanium metal. This process is called the Kroll Process and has been around for many years.

However, there is a newer process called the FFC Cambridge Process, where the titanium salts and oxides are melted at a high temperature and the molten mixture is electrolysed to produce titanium metal at the cathode. I am sure you will get further details on the Internet.

If you want to do metal extraction, you may want to try the Thermite process. This is great fun but potentially quite explosive! You mix the metal oxide (iron, cobalt, nickel, chromium etc ) with aluminium powder in a thermite crucible. You then use magnesium ribbon to light the mixture and it produces an incredibly hot fire. KEEP WELL AWAY! The aluminium reduces the metal oxide to form molten metal. This process was used to weld the train tracks when they built the trans America railroads in the nineteenth century. Be careful doing this as it is very dangerous, but perhaps your science teacher may help you. One tip DO NOT USE manganese dioxide; I did so once and had a huge explosion - this was not funny! If you want to use a manganese oxide, partially reduce manganese dioxide with carbon to Mn2O3; this is much safer and will not explode so readily!

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK

Q. I was wondering is there anyway of extracting the Ti ion from black sand (containing Ti02). I know that if I add the TiO2 to HCl I will get the tetrachloride. How do I manage to break the Cl ions away from the tetrachloride without using the Kroll method or extreme heat or risky explosions lol.
I am theorising that I can electroplate the Ti onto a Mg cathode if the TiCl4 remains in a liquid state. However the problem exists that Ti will react oxygen. Will a vacuumed environment solve this problem?

Ciaran Slow
- Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand

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