A new crystallization process being developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Wash., employs a titanium-based catalyst to extract naturally occurring magnesium from seawater. The process uses 50% less energy than current methods of obtaining magnesium. The metal goes into strong, lightweight metal alloys found in cars, airplanes, power-generation equipment, and construction.
The catalyst lets extraction take place at 300°C, much lower than the 900°C technique in use at the sole U. S. magnesium mine in Utah. The new process also creates fewer carbon emissions. Once the process is perfected and commercialized, it should produce magnesium for $1.50/kg using 25 kW-hr of energy.