29

2019

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05

China acquires overseas mineral resources to strengthen the development of high-temperature alloys and cemented carbides

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As the "crown of modern industry", aero-engine is one of the most difficult cutting-edge technologies to break through. China has not been able to thoroughly master the production and development of modern aero-engine for decades, one of the reasons is that the material processing, such as superalloy, and other fields are far behind. The core index of aero-engine is the thrust-weight ratio, and the key to improve the thrust-weight ratio is to improve the high-temperature resistance of turbine blade materials. The thrust-weight ratio can be increased by 10% for every 100 ℃ increase in temperature. Generally speaking, a military turbine engine needs to invest at least several billion dollars from development to project approval, and a considerable part of it is spent on materials, which is the secret of the United States and Russia and other military powers. For example, the first stage high-pressure turbine of the engine needs about 100 blades, and the price of one turbine blade is as high as 10000 dollars, which is enough to reflect its amazing value.
A large number of superalloys are used in the main structure of aero-engines, and the manufacturing of superalloys cannot be separated from rare earth and rare metals. China's rare earth reserves are the first in the world, but the rare gold reserves are relatively poor. It has long been restricted in the field of iron, nickel and cobalt-based superalloys essential for manufacturing high-end aero-engines.
Taking the rare metal cobalt as an example, it is a key raw material for the production of high-temperature alloys, hard alloys, magnetic materials and corrosion-resistant materials. It is widely used in military and aviation industries, including the manufacture of armor, armor piercing projectiles, aviation engines and other fields. Cobalt-based alloy is composed of cobalt metal and other metal carbide grains, and will not lose its original hardness at a high temperature of more than 1000 degrees. Therefore, it is an essential high-quality material for manufacturing aviation turbine engines, generally accounting for 30% of the entire engine structure. Parts using cobalt-based alloy have strong oxidation resistance, and can be used for a long time without any protective coating.
As an important strategic metal, cobalt has the reputation of "industrial monosodium glutamate" and "industrial tooth", and all countries in the world attach great importance to it. Major countries, including the United States, Russia and Japan, maintain the strategic reserves of cobalt all year round. With China's vigorous development of aero-engines, the demand for cobalt has increased year by year. From a global perspective, cobalt metal is mainly distributed in Congo (Democratic Republic of China), Zambia, the United States, Australia, Canada and other countries, while China's cobalt metal reserves are only 80000 tons, with few resources, low grade and difficult to obtain. For a long time, the mining and sales of cobalt metal have been in the hands of western developed countries, and monopoly pricing and sales of China have been carried out, It has seriously affected the development of China's aviation industry
However, this situation is expected to be broken. According to Reuters, Luoyang Molybdenum Industry of China recently announced that it had purchased 56% of the shares of Tengko-Fugulum copper-cobalt mine, the largest copper-cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from the international mining giant Freeport Company at a price of 2.65 billion US dollars. The mining area contains more than 28 million tons of copper and 3 million tons of cobalt, with an annual production capacity of 204000 tons of copper and 16000 tons of cobalt.
Western media said that the Chinese company's purchase of the mine was not about wine, but about mining copper, but to obtain valuable cobalt resources. With this rich mine, the high-temperature alloy dilemma that has plagued China's military/aviation industry for many years is expected to be eased, which is what the West does not want to see.
Kongshan, a military commentator, said that China started late in the field of high-end material processing. The so-called "heart disease" of the engine was largely due to the lack of qualified alloy materials. In the case of aero-engine turbine blades alone, the annual cost of importing foreign products exceeded US $100 million, and foreign companies often made difficulties and refused to sell them for various reasons. With the development of China's military aviation industry, there will be more and more demand for high-temperature alloy materials represented by cobalt-based alloys. In this context, China is undoubtedly a very smart move to actively go abroad and purchase rare metal mines overseas. It will not only break the western monopoly on China, but also greatly accelerate the development of domestic high-end alloy materials, so as to completely solve the engine war that has plagued the PLA for many years, In a sense, it is much more important than building a domestic aircraft carrier.

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