Changing Metals Everywhere

Iron: Everywhere and mixed with everything

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, 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 the Bayan Obo Mine in China, which was originally 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 US’ National Science Foundation.  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. Two Planet Steel will produce powders with different shapes, sizes, and physical properties, customized for its major markets. These markets will include large-scale powder metallurgy for 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 would enable the expanded use of metal powders and transform what is economically possible in metal manufacturing.

Main steps of FIC & its related downstream activities

FIC residue can also be valuable. Depending on the input feed, the residue can contain all 50 of the 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 (from “red mud” bauxite waste), concentrates of chromium and vanadium oxides, etc. FIC will open up many possible value-adding processing pathways that thus far have remained closed to state-of-the-art iron carbonylation.

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-containing carbonatite (Mount Weld & Araxa)

  • Laterized iron ores with some carbonatite (from Brazil & Namibia)

Preferred input feeds to FIC that contain critical metals:

  • 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