Is there a meteoric market rise for scandium next?

Data: 2020-02-27
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Is there a meteoric market rise for scandium next?

It is extremely rare to find a metal where the potential demand is much greater than what anyone can supply. It has happened the past year with the emissions metals palladium and rhodium which were up 75% and 366%; so it makes good sense that scandium may be next.

Scandium-Aluminum alloy is a key material in the lightweighting industry

Lightweighting of vehicles is a massive new trend this decade as we switch over to electric vehicles. Just 2% scandium added to aluminum increases strength, heat tolerance, corrosion resistance, and weldability. A lighter vehicle will require less energy (less gasoline or less lithium-ion batteries) to move a set distance.

Scandium offers improvements in aluminum particularly suited to the transport sector; marine, automotive, and aerospace.

Scandium’s place in lightweighting is on the rise which means the need for new scandium mines has never been greater. Whilst still a niche industry with a high scandium metal price, if a miner was able to produce significant volumes then prices would go down, which in turn would mean order volumes would go up.

Scandium is used in some fuel cells

A little known fact is that scandium is used in certain fuel cells as the electrolyte. For example, Bloom Energy sells a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that produces electricity directly from oxidizing a fuel. Scandium oxide (Scandia) with zirconia (ScSZ) is the electrolyte. Scandium in SOFCs enables a lower operating temperature resulting in longer-lived equipment and less costly materials of construction. Bloom Energy in the US is the leading SOFC manufacturer and one of the largest scandium users.

Scandium’s greatest potential is in light-weighting such as with aluminum alloys

The space and aviation industry is very aware of scandium and its lightweighting effects. Given the massive fuel savings lightweighting has enormous potential.

With the current movement to vehicle electrification, lightweighting becomes so much more important for mass market vehicles. A lighter electric car will mean more power and range for the same size battery.

Airbus has already been involved in designing new lightweight scandium-magnesium-aluminum alloys. One example is the lightweight bike shown below.

A super light weight bike made from Sc-Mg-Al alloy by Airbus subsidiary APWorks

Is there a meteoric market rise for scandium next?

The problem to date has been that global scandium supply is only around 10 tonnes, which means scandium is expensive. Once larger scandium supply is made available then prices can fall. Miners with good grade scandium projects can still be profitable.


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