Craft & Design Science
Homemade titanium?

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Using a mixture of titanium dioxide, drywall plaster, aluminium powder and ground fluorite, Theo Grey of PopSci.com was able to smelt his own titanium, via a thermite reaction. The results are not pretty, and you probably don’t want to try this at home, but hey, DIY titanium!

Yet I was able to make titanium using equipment I had lying around. I did it with thermite reduction, a process commonly used to weld train tracks. In an iron thermite reaction, iron oxide reacts with aluminum and comes out as liquid iron. I just swapped in titanium dioxide instead. But that reaction, in which titanium dioxide transfers its oxygen atoms to aluminum, doesn’t release enough heat to melt the materials.

So I mixed in drywall plaster (calcium sulfate) and more aluminum powder. They react to create huge amounts of extra heat, enough to melt the titanium and allow it to pool at the bottom of the container. Adding ground fluorite powder makes the molten metals more fluid and protects the titanium from air as it cools.

The process used was developed by Gert Meyer. You can find more details here.


Homemade Titanium

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0 thoughts on “Homemade titanium?

  1. It would be interesting to try this in a crucible made of Refractory Cement, and to burn some coal under it as well to see if you can produce Titanium Carbide before it cools. I know nothing about chemistry whatsoever.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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