Supersonic magnesium

By Keirissa Lawson

20 July 2016

3 minute read

Our T mag magnesium casting technology was used to make this strong, light weight wheel rim; just one of a suite of magnesium technologies we have developed.

Our T-mag magnesium casting technology was used to make this strong, light weight wheel rim; just one of a suite of magnesium technologies we have developed.

It’s used to make our smartphones and cars, and it makes our fireworks go off with a brilliant bang. It’s the third most commonly used structural metal and comprises 2% of Earth’s crust. We are of course talking about magnificent magnesium.

Why do we think it’s so magnificent? Well, when magnesium is mixed with other metals it makes stable, super-strong alloys. Not only are these alloys used in our mobile phones and laptops, they are also highly sought after by car manufacturers who are turning to the metal as a solution for making lightweight, low-emission vehicles.

Australia is sitting in the driver’s seat to deliver new, improved, ‘supersonic’ magnesium metal and take advantage of our vast untapped reserves of magnesite. So we’ve decided to take the wheel and develop an innovative technology, known as MagSonic, which produces magnesium using up to 80 per cent less energy and up to 60 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than traditional processes.

The process involves heating magnesia (magnesium oxide) with carbon to extreme temperatures to produce magnesium vapour and carbon monoxide. The gases are then passed through a supersonic nozzle – similar to a rocket engine – at four times the speed of sound. This cools the gases in milliseconds, condensing and solidifying the magnesium vapour to magnesium metal.

Infographic showing the different uses and facts of magnesium

Magnificent magnesium facts.

Dr Mark Cooksey, who leads our sustainable processing group, said commercialisation of MagSonic would make the metal’s production more cost effective.

“The growth of magnesium use has been limited because it’s been too expensive and labour-intensive to produce the metal from ore using traditional processes,” said Dr Cooksey.

“MagSonic technology offers an economically viable solution to overcome these issues and make cleaner, cheaper magnesium more available and affordable to manufacturers.”

New market for Australian magnesium metal

Not only is MagSonic more environmentally friendly, it also has the potential to create new business opportunities in mining and manufacturing.

Supplying reliable magnesium production to the Australian and global market has the potential to benefit other emerging industries like electric vehicle manufacturing. Not only that, Australia has an estimated 220 million tonnes of magnesite ore available to feed into the process.

We are working with Enirgi Group’s Innovation Division to further develop and validate the MagSonic technology. Once the technology is proven ready for commercialisation, Enirgi Group could build the first commercial scale magnesium production facility in Australia.

In recent years we have been developing new sustainable technologies to help the Australian metal production industry compete in an increasingly environmentally-conscious and globalised world.

MagSonic compliments a suite of process technologies involving magnesium, including our magnesium casting technology T-mag, which is produced in Adelaide by a spin out company of the same name.

See more of our work in Mineral Resources and check out how we could help your business.