CSIRO & Enirgi Group develop supersonic tech for production of low-cost magnesium

Wheel casting made out of lightweight magnesium metal Image credit: www.csiro.au

CSIRO and Enirgi Group have teamed up to develop and commercialise an affordable and low-emission technology for producing magnesium metal.

Wheel casting made out of lightweight magnesium metal Image credit: www.csiro.au
Wheel casting made out of lightweight magnesium metal
Image credit: www.csiro.au

The technology, dubbed ‘MagSonic,’ is said to produce magnesium using up to 80 percent less energy and up to 60 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions thanks to a supersonic nozzle.

Once fully developed and commercialised, it is tipped to help reinvigorate the magnesium production industry in Australia as more and more car manufacturers turn to the metal as a solution for making lightweight, low-emission vehicles.

CSIRO and Enirgi Group’s Innovation Division will work together to further develop and validate the MagSonic technology which could help Australia take advantage of its abundant reserves of magnesite ore that remain largely untapped.

“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 Mark Cooksey, who leads CSIRO’s sustainable process engineering group.

“Our MagSonic technology offers an economically-viable solution to overcome these issues and make clean magnesium more available and affordable to manufacturers. We’re delighted to be working with Enirgi Group as our technology and commercial partners, with their experience in developing new processes to disrupt and change industry dynamics.”

According to CSIRO, MagSonic uses carbothermal reduction and a supersonic nozzle to efficiently produce high quality magnesium. It involves heating magnesia with carbon to extreme temperatures to produce magnesium vapour and carbon monoxide.

The vapour and carbon monoxide are passed through a supersonic nozzle – similar to a rocket engine – at four times the speed of sound to cool the gases in milliseconds, condensing and solidifying the magnesium vapour to magnesium metal.

“We are pleased to be working with CSIRO on this exciting opportunity to bring reliable supply of magnesium metal to the global market in an environmentally sustainable way,” Enirgi Group’s Vice President of Corporate Development, Anthony Deal said.

“We are confident that this process is capable of commercial production. The flow-through benefits to emerging industries like electric vehicle manufacturing are enormous, not to mention a substantial reduction in carbon emissions when compared to current magnesium production processes.”

Once the technology is ready for commercialisation, Enirgi Group has the option to take up an exclusive global license that would see the company initially build a commercial-scale magnesium production facility in Australia.