South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and US aerospace giant Boeing have signed an agreement to collaborate on the research and development of titanium powder for industrial manufacturing processes in the aviation industry.
South Africa boasts the second-largest reserves of titanium ore in the world, and the CSIR has developed and patented technology that converts titanium tetrachloride to titanium powder.
"This mutually beneficial agreement, bolstered by South Africa's rich titanium ore reserves, supports the nation's long-term economic development goals that include the supply of titanium to many industries, including aerospace," the CSIR said in a statement on Tuesday.
The deal cements the titanium beneficiation cooperative research plan agreed on by the two organisations in 2012.
"Boeing's competencies and experience regarding the applications of titanium in aerospace parts and structures will hugely complement the CSIR's drive towards commercialisation of the titanium technologies," said Titanium Centre of Competence director, Willie du Preez.
The centre of competence is hosted by the CSIR and features collaboration with the national science department, various South African universities, science councils and commercial entities.
'Significant cost, efficiency advantages'
A titanium pilot plant was launched in Pretoria last week in a partnership between CSIR and the Science and Technology Department and will assist in the up-scaling of the technology and the agreement with Boeing.
"It is a breakthrough in the production of titanium metal powder using a novel continuous process, instead of the more conventional batch process," Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom said at the launch of the plant.
"This proprietary technology offers significant cost and efficiency advantages and is expected to give South Africa a comparative advantage in the production of titanium metal and finished products."
The success of the pilot plant will drive the commercialisation of the country's titanium beneficiation strategy and is expected to stimulate development in various sectors.
"Our research and development agreement with the CSIR adds a new dimension to Boeing engagement in South Africa," said Boeing's international vice president for Africa, J Miguel Santos.
"We are collaborating to leverage expertise and resources to advance South Africa's development goals and the competitiveness of Boeing products," Santos said.
"Boeing Research and Technology conducts its own research and works with partners around the world to find technologies that are innovative and affordable."