Scandium Metal Processing for Space Applications
A collaboration between Swansea University and the European Space Agency
Scandium (Sc) is a silvery-white metallic transition element, with a low density of 2.98, in between aluminium and titanium.
Scandium has excellent elemental properties, light weight and good alloying potential, but has received very little attention from the aerospace materials community. Only 100 kg are traded globally per year. The abundance of scandium in the Earth's crust is quite high - in fact it is more abundant than silver, cobalt, lead and tin. But, because scandium is well dispersed in the lithosphere it is difficult to extract in commercial quantities.
Alloys of scandium have corrosion-resistance, low density, high melting point and excellent mechanical properties. Scandium is also used in fuel cells and increasingly in lighting applications. With partners we will evaluate their potential in a variety of sectors including space applications.
The project will explore the chemistry and alloying potential of scandium, using high throughput testing methods, so that advanced Sc-containing alloys can be designed and deployed as structural and/or functional materials for aerospace applications. The objective is to turn scandium from a lab-based curiosity into a useful raw material.
Professor Steve Brown
PhD Student: Ms Sephira Riva Research Assistant: Dr Kirill Yusenko
Discovery of new applications for Sc will increase global extraction of this underused element.
Dr Nicholas Lavery
European Space Agency