Titanium Dioxide – TiO2 – Speciality or Commodity?

December 13, 2016 11:37 am Published by

For the past 4-5 years we have seen the cost of TiO2 or Titanium Dioxide steadily fall from the dizzy heights it had reached during 2011/2012. There are a number of theories as to why the price was where it was in 2012 and just as many as to why we have seen it fall over the last few years. One thing that is for sure is that it appears to have bottomed out and is now beginning to rise again. Add to this the fall in value of Sterling following the UK vote to leave Europe back in June and it is fair to say that the UK market is unlikely to see the lows of early 2016 for some time.

Price of Titanium Dioxide in Fluctuation

In reality TiO2 is a pigment with quite unique properties, so it is somewhat baffling that the market price is as low as it is. Over supply to the market is clearly one of the main reason that we have seen such low pricing, but there does come a time when it becomes commercially unviable to manufacture and that would potentially see us moving quickly back up the price curve as the demand for the pigment continues to grow. Recent consolidation of manufacturing seen both in China and the West certainly suggests that we have reached this low point and that an upward move is more likely and many would argue that this is long overdue for such a unique product.

Titanium Dioxide Specifications and Uses

TiO2 comes quite literally in many shapes and sizes. More importantly to formulators, TiO2 comes in a wide variety of specifications in terms of its ease of use, its suitability for processing and its performance characteristics within the end product. While anatase grades offer superior UV performance, harder rutile grades are still the choice of most for inks, paints and other coating applications as well as for plastics. The surface treatments used to enhance the properties of modern TiO2 grades offer formulators an almost never ending choice of products to meet the ever changing demands of modern resin systems.

Titanium Dioxide Grades

Historically, TiO2 produced using the sulphate process has been seen as inferior to those produced by the Chloride process, particularly in regards to the hue (Chloride being seen as blue and Sulphate as yellow). In reality, it is often quite difficult to differentiate some of today’s grades and it is more difficult to justify the higher prices for the chloride grades. As previously stated, the fineness of the grade and the surface treatment applied is really what should be driving the decision as to which grade to use.

New Heat Reduction Grades – IR Reflective

New developments have now made a range of IR reflective grades available to reduce heat build-up in coatings and plastic components exposed to sunlight. These grades lend themselves perfectly to exterior paints and coatings particularly for insulation panels and in vehicle systems, where temperatures can rise quite dramatically, especially in black surfaced components. While not offering quite such a level of opacity as traditional rutile grades, they can also be used in conjunction with existing systems.

This brings me back to my original question, should TiO2 be priced as a commodity or the special pigment that it undoubtedly is?

How can we help?

At MegaChem (UK) Ltd we can offer a range of grades to suit most applications. From easy disperse high opacity grades for interior or exterior coatings to grades developed specifically for use in plastics without discolouration or significant increase in Filter Pressure Value, even with very high loadings. IR absorbing grades are also available. Call us now for more information on + 44 (0) 1291 422747.

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This post was written by John Droogan

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