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Scandium is a rare-earth metal, used in small amounts but with drastic effects on properties of matter. It is a key component in producing high strength Aluminium alloys used in aerospace and 3D printing as well as in Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) applications. Yet Scandium supply is limited due its scarcity and the high cost of its production, which currently takes place in Asia and Russia. Europe has no production of Scandium, but is home to many Scandium end-users and to industries having Scandium in their industrial residues. By converting waste into resources and thus developing a stable and secure EU scandium supply chain to serve the needs of EU aerospace and high tech industry, the project will contribute to reduce dependency on imports of raw materials.

Beyond industrial symbiosis, the SCALE project further contributes to a sustainable economy through the use of scandium-containing products. Scandium-containing SOFC have a better efficiency in electrical conversion when compared to thermo-electrical plants (60% instead or 30%; i.e. for 1 kg of natural gas produced, the SOFC can produce about 8 kWh of electrical energy, instead of 4) and reduce respectively CO2 emissions.

Al-Sc alloys can bring about weight reduction in commercial aircraft construction enabling fuel saving, greatly improving the environmental footprint of each flight as well as its cost (each kg less resulting in 800-1000 gallons of fuel saving over the entire lifetime of the aircraft). By applying the 3D-printing technology in manufacturing commercial aircrafts, weight reduction could reach even higher percentages. Similar crucial weight reduction advantages can be expected from the application of Al-Sc alloys in the production of electric vehicles.

Increased availability of scandium will further foster new material research and technology development into new lightweight super-alloys, creating new market opportunities and strengthening the competitiveness and excellence of the European knowledge-based manufacturing and high-tech industries.

The main aim of SCALE is the efficient exploitation of EU high concentration scandium containing resources including bauxite residues (100-150 ppm) resulting from alumina production and acid wastes (50-100 ppm) from TiO2 pigment production to develop a stable and secure EU scandium supply chain to serve the needs of EU aerospace and high tech industry. This will be achieved through the development of a number of innovative extraction, separation, refining and alloying technologies that will be validated in an appropriate laboratory and bench scale environment to prove their technical and economic feasibility.

The role of FHNW

FHNW is envolved in the extraction & purification of Sc from TiO2 pigement by-products by acid resistant nanofiltration (from lab to pilot). Further,  FHNW leads the Workpackage on Sustainability evaluation of all new technologies under development. Environmental, health and safety assessment (LCA, LCC, TEA).

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Dr. Markus Lenz
Dr. Markus Lenz

Team leader and lecturer, Applied Circular Economy

Telephone +41 61 228 56 86 (direct)