Iron, FIC, critical metals, & Mars

Iron: everywhere & mixed with everything

Iron is everywhere & mixed with everything on Earth and Mars.

Iron is the most abundant metal in the solar system. This abundance is due to how the heavier elements are formed in supernovas (star explosions). Supernovas produce vast amounts of iron mixed with most of the other elements.

The eons of elemental history have practical consequences today.

Between 90% and 95% of all the metal produced by 21st-century mining and metallurgy is iron. And, for the other metals, most of their raw ores contain enough iron that it is considered a nuisance: The processing presently done to produce copper (and aluminum, nickel, chromium, gold, etc.) is, to a large extent, concerned with removing iron. The highest concentration of rare earth elements found anywhere is at a mine (Bayan Obo in China) that was opened as an iron ore mine. Iron is everywhere & mixed with everything.

FIC: a new process, iron extraction, powder-making, & critical metal residues

A new process called FIC (fast iron carbonylation) is under development at Two Planet Steel with funding from the National Science Foundation of the USA.

FIC extracts iron and nickel as carbonyl intermediates from mixed material feeds. FIC also delivers an unaltered residue. FIC has zero emissions; it is clean.

The carbonyl intermediates will be turned into iron and nickel powders. The powder-making can produce powders with different shapes, sizes, and physical properties. Two Planet Steel will customize the powders for its major markets. These markets will include large-scale powder metallurgy for high-volume vehicle manufacture, 3D metal printing, feeds for NCM lithium-ion batteries, and sheet steel production on Mars.

Two Planet Steel aims to cut the price of iron and nickel powders by a large factor: This price-cutting should expand the use of metal powders and transform what is economically possible in metal manufacturing.

FIC residue can be valuable. Depending on the input feed, the residue can contain all 50 of the 50 metals and minerals designated by the US Geological Survey as "vital to the Nation's economic and national security interests," as well as other valuable metals and minerals like copper, silver, gold, and phosphate.

Two Planet Steel will test FIC on a large variety of high-iron-content feeds. Some of these feeds will yield residues that customers of Two Planet Steel can further process into, for example, mixed concentrates of rare earth elements, high purity copper, concentrates of platinum group metals, refreshed bauxite (aluminum) ore (refreshed from "red mud" bauxite waste), concentrates of chromium and vanadium oxides, etc. FIC should open up many possible value-adding processing pathways (that remain closed to state-of-the-art iron carbonylation).

Here are the main steps of FIC and its related downstream activities:

Figure showing process flowsheet

Preferred input feeds to FIC that contain rare earth elements:

    • US iron-ores containing carbonatite, apatite, etc.,
    • bauxite residue waste and other industrial toxic waste with high iron content,
    • recycled materials,
    • laterized iron-containng carbonatite (Mount Weld & Araxa),
    • laterized iron ores with some carbonatite (from Brazil & Namibia).

Preferred critical-metal-containing input feeds to FIC:

    • bauxite residue waste and other industrial toxic waste with high iron content,
    • recycled materials,
    • limonitic-laterite iron ores
    • nickel-cobalt-iron laterite ores,
    • chromium-iron laterite ores.

Preferred input feeds to FIC for powder metallurgy:

    • all of the above,
    • Minnesota iron ore.

  © Two Planet Steel