We Shouldn’t Miss the Big Chance to Lead the Global Recycle Technology

March 19, 2024

Some accidents related to aircrafts have been broadcasted for these several months in the US. Even though Japan had a big accident occurred at the beginning of this year, only a few Japanese media broadcasted the US aviation accidents. We can easily find at least THREE accidents in less than 3 months. The Alaska Airline made a safe emergency landing after losing part of its fuselage while flying on Jan. 5th (reference). The United Airline flight diverted due to damage to one of its wings on Feb. 29th (reference). The United Airline flight lost a tire while taking off on Mar. 7th (reference). Most of the airplane accidents were due to operation errors, but these three accidents implied the deterioration of the aircrafts.

(Source: The Standard)

Do you know what are the main materials for creating an aircraft? One of them is titanium. Even though more than half of the aircraft is made from aluminum alloy, which is not expensive metal, titanium is also used for aircraft’s wings, body or engine parts. The raw material of the titanium product is titanium sponge, and Japan is the world second producer of this material following China. China produces not only the titanium sponge, but also vanadium which is necessary to enhance the strength of titanium products. In the same way, Russia is also a big producer of both titanium sponge and titanium. Considering about these two countries monopolize the vanadium market, it seems that Japan doesn’t have any means to compete against their power in terms of titanium products. However, Japan still has a chance to be a great producer of high-quality titanium products using a new recycling technology developed by Prof. Katsuyoshi Kondoh at Osaka university. In the present production procedure, we need to cut 10-20% of titanium sponge in order to remove the impurities on the surface. The cut impurities will never be used and be thrown away as industrial waste. Prof. Kondoh revealed the world’s first way to recycle this waste. In addition to this technology, they revealed that the recycled titanium is much stronger and more flexible than the original one. This recycled titanium will be able to make the product lighter, smaller or bigger with its feature (reference). Since China produces huge amount of titanium products, they must also have a great amount of its waste. For example, the biggest producer of iPhone is the manufacturing plant in south China, and the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max were made from titanium. We don’t know about the industrial waste, but it is quite possible that most of it may be in China. If there is no recycling process there, Japan will be able to collect the waste from China and make profits from them.

In fact, the study about recycling has been popular in Japan for long time, and we have high technologies about how to reuse, reduce and recycle. Kyushu university has developed the way to recycle rare metal and created the special solvent to gather specified rare metal (reference). Likewise, Tohoku university has developed the hydrothermal technology and succeeded to efficiently collect metal from lithium-ion battery and create carbon material from biomass (reference).

Yet, we shouldn’t be too careless in thinking that Japan already has such great technologies. Regarding to titanium recycling, Korea has been paying attention to create a new technology and making their effort to encourage researchers to study about this area (reference). Japan has been way behind in the solar market and would like to take this opportunity to lead global recycling technology, and we need not only researchers abut also collaborators with them. It usually takes long time to start new business with new technology in an ordinal Japanese way, but we have to shorten the process under this innovative era. We should create more opportunities to connect such researchers with companies and investors.

Thank you for reading,

Yuki Kondo