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Aerospace Critical Minerals

Niobium, Scandium, and Titanium — critical and strategic minerals that NioCorp plans to produce in Nebraska — are all critical to a number of aerospace technologies and platforms.  Virtually every commercial jetliner, and military aircraft, flying today utilizes alloys made with Niobium and Titanium.  In fact, according to Niobium market leader CBMM, the most common jet engine in service today contains about 300 kilograms of niobium. 

Helicopters, drones, satellites and a host of other aerospace technologies would not fly without one or more of these strategic metals.

When sufficient and reliable supplies of Scandium come online, that metal offers truly revolutionary benefits to aerospace, and to commercial aviation in particular. For example, an independent analysis by OnG Commodities LLC shows the following:

  • Scandium-contained aluminum alloys can save airline operators approximately $9 million in net present value for a single B737-sized jetliner, assuming Scandium oxide pricing at $3,500/kg.  This represents an 11:1 cost-savings ratio for the airlines, and assumes B737 flying 3,250 hours per year, using American Airlines’ cost of capital, U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) projections for future fuel price inflation, Scandium Trioxide (Sc2O3) at a price of $3,500/kg, and an average 0.7% by weight scandium doping level.    
  • For commercial aircraft manufacturers, AlSc alloys allow aluminum components to be welded instead of joined via hundreds of thousands of rivets per plane. For manufacturers, this could amount to tens of millions of dollars/year in lower materials costs and direct manufacturing costs and a higher manufacturing throughput.  A 1% increase in annual production of a narrow body jet is worth approximately $500 million in added revenue to an commercial aircraft manufacturer.

Aerospace Applications That Utilize NioCorp’s Planned Products

Commercial Jetliners

Virtually every commercial jetliners in operation today relies on high-performance alloys made with Niobium and Titanium.  Moreover, when production of Scandium comes online from reliable producers, commercial aviation stands to gain tremendously from the benefits that Aluminum-Scandium alloys can deliver to jetliners.

Jet Engines

In both civilian and defense applications, alloys made with Niobium and Titanium are used extensively in jet engines.  These alloys help jet turbines withstand very high temperatures and pressures and maintain a high level of corrosion resistance. 

Military Aircraft

Modern military jets rely extensively on Niobium and Titanium throughout the plane’s engines, structure, and payload. As Scandium becomes more available from reliable suppliers, that metal is expected to be used extensively in military aircraft. The former Soviet Union reportedly deployed Scandium in its most advanced military aircraft. 

Launch Vehicles

Niobium and Titanium and various alloys that utilize these metals are integral to rockets that launch various spacecraft into orbit.  This includes rocket engines, exhaust nozzles, nose cones, structural elements, electronics, and many other components.  Scandium also presents a range of potential uses in spacecraft systems.

Satellites

Satellites and other aerospace systems use superalloy metals such as Niobium and Titanium because of the highly unique properties that these elements provide to such systems.  The potential for Scandium’s use in various aerospace systems is also substantial.

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