More About Titanium
Refined rutile (or ilmenite) from the ore is reduced with petroleum-derived coke in a fluidized bed reactor at 1000°C. The mixture is then treated with chlorine gas, affording titanium tetrachloride TiCl4 and other volatile chlorides, which are subsequently separated by continuous fractional distillation. In a separate reactor, the TiCl4 is reduced by liquid magnesium (15-20% excess) at 800-850°C in a stainless steel retort to ensure complete reduction.
Complications for the process result from partial reduction of the titanium to its lower chlorides TiCl2 and TiCl3. The MgCl2 can be further refined back to magnesium. The resulting porous metallic titanium sponge is purified by leaching or heated vacuum distillation. The sponge is jackhammered out, crushed, and pressed before it is melted in a consumable electrode vacuum arc furnace. The melted ingot, is allowed to solidify under vacuum. It is often remelted to remove inclusions and ensure uniformity. These melting steps add to the cost of the product. Titanium is about six times as expensive as stainless steel.