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Porton Down Revolutionises Production Of Titanium

A 'groundbreaking' method for producing titanium has been developed by British military research base Porton Down...

Porton Down

A method for producing titanium has been developed by the British military research base Porton Down which could cut costs in half.

Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) have reduced the 40-stage titanium production process down to just two, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

Porton Down played a central role in the investigation into the Novichok nerve agent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. 

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said titanium is used by the military in everything from cutting-edge nuclear submarines to fighter jets and life-changing replacement limbs.

But Mr Williamson said the "production time and costs mean we haven't always used it."

"This groundbreaking method is not only faster and cheaper but could see a huge expansion of titanium parts and equipment throughout the military."

He added that the new method was a clear example of how "world-class scientists are working behind the scenes to help our Armed Forces as well as bringing prosperity and security to Britain."

The research project at the University of Sheffield, which led to the development, received more than £30,000 of investment from Dstl.

Pioneer of the new technique Dr Nick Weston: "The possibilities are endless"

Titanium is as strong as steel but weighs around half as much. 

The MoD said its wider use is limited as it costs 10 times as much as steel and is difficult to make.

Amid at least a £20 billion black hole in the budget over the next decade, principal scientist for materials science at Dstl, Matthew Lunt, said the innovation could "cut the production cost of titanium parts by up to 50%".

"With this reduction in cost, we could use titanium in submarines, where corrosion resistance would extend the life, or for light-weight requirements like armoured vehicles."

"Such components have mechanical properties equivalent to forged product," he added.

"For titanium alloys, FAST-forge will provide a step change in the cost of components, allowing use in automotive applications such as powertrain and suspension systems."

Small-scale trials have so far been carried out, the MoD said, but a new large-scale fast furnace facility - jointly funded by Dstl and Kennametal Manufacturing Ltd - has been built and will enable the production of larger components for testing.

More: UK And US Issue Joint Statement On Cyber Collaboration

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