NioCorp Developments (TSX:NB; NASDAQ:NB) has produced its first ingot of aluminum-scandium (Al-Sc). The 1-kg ingot was produced at a facility owned and operated by Creative Engineers.
The ingot was produced via a proprietary process developed by Nanoscale that is expected to improve process efficiency, result in higher yields, and reduce environmental impacts over traditional approaches. Nanoscale has already developed similar metallurgical processes that are being applied to the production of rare earth metals of other operators, which behave metallurgically in a fashion similar to scandium.
The ingot will be tested for chemical composition to determine its precise metallurgical characteristics while Creative Engineers continues to optimize the process so that NioCorp will eventually be able to produce Al-Sc master alloy ingots with various amounts of contained scandium.
Al-Sc alloys help reduce weight increase strength, resist corrosion, and make the metal weldable. The metal has application in the automotive and mass transit, aerospace, defense, space, and other sectors.
“Producing aluminum-scandium master alloy is technically challenging on multiple levels,” said NioCorp COO Scott Honan. “However, the Nanoscale and Creative Engineers teams are highly adept at designing and testing challenging metallurgical processes, and I am confident that we will continue to advance toward eventual commercial production of aluminum-scandium master alloy.”
NioCorp plans to produce Al-Sc alloys containing between 2% and 10% scandium. The first ingot contained 2%. The company is in talks with vehicle manufacturers.
NioCorp and Nanoscale also plan to develop recycling approaches for scrap alloy, including work-in-process material and post-production scrap.
The company’s website is on www.NioCorp.com.