Direct oxygen removal technique for recycling titanium using molten MgCl2 salt
Deoxidation of Ti, or direct removal of O dissolved in metallic Ti, is known to be extremely difficult when Mg is used as the deoxidizing agent. This difficulty arises because the chemical potential of O2, pO2, under Mg/MgO equilibrium is high (approximately 10−41 atm at 1200 K) and is equivalent to that of Ti containing ∼2 mass% O at 1200 K. Therefore, when deoxidizing Ti to the commercial level of high-grade pure Ti (below 0.05 mass% O) using an Mg reductant at 1200 K, the activity of the reaction product MgO (aMgO) must be decreased to below ∼0.025, which is difficult in practice. In this study, the removal of O in Ti in molten MgCl2 salt using an electrochemical technique was examined at ∼1173 K with the objective of obtaining Ti containing less than 0.05 mass% O. Ti samples and graphite electrodes immersed in molten MgCl2 served as the cathode and anode, respectively. A constant voltage was applied between the electrodes using an external DC source. Molten MgCl2 was employed to produce the deoxidizing agent Mg and to facilitate deoxidation of Ti by decreasing the activity of the reaction product MgO. By applying a voltage of approximately 3.1 V between the electrodes, the chemical potential of Mg in the molten MgCl2 was increased at the surface of the Ti cathode, and the Ti samples were deoxidized. The resulting O species, mainly formed O2− dissolved in the molten MgCl2, was removed from the molten salt by reacting with the C anode to form CO (or CO2) gas. Ti wires containing 0.12 mass% O were deoxidized to less than 0.02 mass% O. In some cases, the O concentration in the Ti samples was reduced to the level of 0.01 mass%, which cannot be accomplished using the conventional Kroll process. The possible application of this deoxidation technique to practical industrial recycling processes is discussed.