The global scandium market size was valued at USD 460.89 million in 2021. It is projected to reach USD 977.29 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 8.7% during the forecast period (2022-2030). Scandium is a silvery-white metallic element developed in conjunction with rare earth elements and obtained as a byproduct of uranium mill tailings. It has a high melting point and l ow density like aluminum and can undergo chemical reactions with elements like magnesium, zirconium, and aluminum due to its small ion size. According to BlueQuark Research & Consulting, the global scandium market is expected to grow significantly during the forecasted period. Factors like increasing demand for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) drive the market's growth over the forecast period.
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Increasing Demand for Aluminum-Scandium Alloys in the Aerospace and Defense Industry
Several aluminum alloys, including AA 2014, AA 2024, AA 5052, and AA 6061, are frequently used to make airplane parts. According to Scandium International Mining Corporation, using aluminum-scandium alloys in place of conventional alloys offers the potential to further lower aircraft weight by 15% to 20% without compromising the alloy's performance. The Aluminum-Scandium alloys also have excellent weldability, which reduces the risk of weld failure and cracking. As a result, using aluminum-scandium alloys presents an opportunity for aircraft makers to cut costs.
One of the early applications of Scandium-Aluminum alloy in the aerospace and defense sector was the production of the Russian military aircraft MiG-21. The fabrication of an aluminum-scandium master alloy by NioCorp Developments Ltd in August 2019 is expected to increase the commercial production of these alloys and enable the scandium industry to fulfill the rising demand for these materials from the aerospace and defense sectors. As a result, the market is driven by the increasing demand for aluminum-scandium alloys in the aerospace and military industries.
High Cost of Scandium
In the recent past, significant applications for scandium have been discovered. However, the scarcity of scandium has slowed down its broad use across several end-user sectors. The crustal abundance of scandium is higher than that of lead. However, scandium has little affinity for the common anions that form ores. Therefore, it is widely distributed across the lithosphere and is hardly ever concentrated in greater concentrations. Thus, scandium and other rare earth and uranium compounds are extracted in small amounts. As a result, there aren't many scandium production facilities in existence globally. The lack of scandium is responsible for the high price and hampering the market growth.
Accelerating Usage in Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs)
Due to their electrical conductivity and heat stabilization qualities, the principal use of scandium will be in the form of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) and aluminum-scandium alloys. Aluminum-scandium alloys are majorly used in aerospace and other high-performance applications. Operating at low temperatures reduces component costs and extends fuel cell life, thus making SOFCs competitive and cheaper than other sources of electricity. However, the limited availability of scandium restricts its usage. It is estimated that the SOFCs market alone will consume about five times scandium compared to current consumption, provided it is available in abundance.
The global scandium market share is segmented by product type and end-user industry.
Based on product type, the global scandium market is bifurcated into oxide, fluoride, chloride, nitrate, iodide, alloy, carbonate, and others.
The fluoride segment is the highest contributor to the market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.21% during the forecast period. Crystalline ionic scandium fluoride is produced when scandium reacts with fluorine to make scandium fluoride. Additionally, thortveitite extracted from the ore can create it when scandium oxide and ammonium bifluoride combine under extreme heat. It is a critical component in the production of highly pure metallic scandium. It has recently been used as a dopant for light amplifiers and in manufacturing visible light-stimulable phosphors. Due to its negative thermal expansion, scandium fluoride contracts when heated. Furthermore, it can form glasses and act as a modifier because of its polymorphism.
Scandium's potential use in the manufacture of aluminum alloys is the greatest. This is so that a variety of aluminum alloy materials can benefit from the addition of scandium to the alloy base materials, which can enhance strength and heat tolerance, encourage corrosion resistance, and increase weldability and weld strength. Aluminum is mainly consumed by the transportation industry, which also uses metal to create automobiles, aircraft, and spacecraft. However, the sector is currently considering using scandium-aluminum alloy in the manufacture of airplanes and cars, as the usage of scandium-based alloy aids in drastically decreasing aircraft weight, i.e., roughly 15-20%, while also increasing strength. Due to its lightweight and better stability, al-Sc alloy's use has also been expanding in sporting equipment, including bicycle frames, golf iron shafts, tennis racquets, and baseball bats.
Based on the end-user industry, the global scandium market is bifurcated into aerospace and defense, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), ceramics, lighting, electronics, 3d printing, sporting goods, and others.
The solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) segment owns the highest market share and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.31% during the forecast period. A solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is an electrochemical conversion device that helps produce electricity directly by combining an oxidant and a fuel across an ionic conducting oxide electrolyte. An electrolyte made of solid oxide is used in SOFCs to help transmit negative oxygen ions from the cathode to the anode. Anode and cathode in these cells are created from unique inks that cover the electrolyte. Therefore, valuable metals, corrosive acids, or molten material are not needed for SOFCs. High temperatures are used for the electrolyte components in these cells to catalyze natural gas conversion into energy. However, the rapid degradation of the ceramic electrolyte caused by the high temperature used for the catalytic conversion process can raise capital and maintenance costs. As a result, the system operates at substantially lower temperatures than typical SOFCs because of the inclusion of scandium in the solid electrolyte. Thus, the use of scandium has contributed to the cost reduction of SOFCs, enabling their widespread adoption for distributed power generation.
Large stamped and welded aircraft components, dashboard panel and compartment structures, and welded gas tanks are all made with aluminum-scandium alloys. They are used in large cargo aircraft's fuselage stringers as well. Russia's MIG 29 military aircraft has the highest percentage of Al-Sc alloys. Additionally, aluminum-lithium alloys containing scandium are frequently utilized in military aviation. Additionally, the AlMgSc alloy technology developed by the Airbus Group led to the creation of the Scalmalloy alloy family, which is well known for its unusual fatigue and toughness qualities, making it very suitable for aviation applications. As a result of this invention, Airbus now makes their aircraft with AlMgSc alloy. Therefore, all of these uses of scandium-based alloys in commercial and military aviation help to fuel the metal's demand.
The global scandium market is bifurcated into four regions, namely North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and LAMEA.
Asia-Pacific Dominates the Global Market
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Asia-Pacific is the most significant shareholder in the global scandium market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.1% during the forecast period. China is the largest rare earth metals producer in the world. Manufacturing zirconium, titanium, and iron ore produce scandium as a byproduct in this country. The other primary source of scandium production today is the Bayan Obo rare earth (Nb/REE/Fe) mining complex in Inner Mongolia, China; however, the rate of scandium production from this deposit is unknown. One of the world's significant producers of scandium is and always has been Russia. Given the rising demand for metal, it is anticipated that Russia and other former Soviet Union member states will lead the global scandium market.
Europe is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.67%, generating USD 385.4 million during the forecast period. Germany is one of Europe's largest producers and consumers of electric vehicles. Even though general car sales in the country have declined, electric vehicle registrations have shown tremendous growth over the past few years. From 2020 to 2025, the German government and the EV sector have agreed to expand their combined subsidies for the country's electric vehicle sales. The European home appliance market is advanced; the UK's sales recently surged significantly. The growth in the number of families and the trend toward built-in kitchens are the leading causes. The average price of appliances increased slightly due to rising disposable income as consumers chose more expensive goods with appealing looks and comprehensive functions. The market being researched in the UK is anticipated to be driven by consumer willingness to spend more on durable goods.
The United States was one of the first countries to commercially deploy fuel cells, due to government support and growing consumer demand, particularly in the automotive sector. The vast opportunities provided by the use of SOFC-based fuel cells as internal combustion engine replacements in light-duty vehicles and warehouse forklifts to increase vehicle efficiency and support the goals of reducing oil consumption and emissions from the transportation sector which is likely to lead to a significant increase in the deployment of fuel cells in the nation. In terms of scale, the US electronics market is the biggest in the world. Due to the use of cutting-edge technology, an increase in the number of R&D facilities, and a rise in consumer demand, it is also anticipated that this market will continue to hold the top spot during the projection period.
In Latin America's largest auto market, Brazil, the sale of new hybrid and electric cars (EVs) averages around 2,000 units per month, crossing 1% of all new vehicles sold there for the first time. Additionally, BYD runs a heavy electric vehicle manufacturing facility in Brazil to serve the South American market. The end-user industries' trends above are anticipated to increase the market under the study's future demand. However, the recent COVD-19 outbreak, the nation's rapidly approaching 120,000 death toll, social movement restrictions, and the lockdown are anticipated to harm the expansion of the industries in the country, which is expected to restrain the market under consideration. Therefore, the abovementioned factors will likely impact Brazil's demand for scandium during the projected period.
The global scandium market’s major key players are Atlantic Equipment Engineers (Micron Metal Inc.), Australian Mines Ltd, Clean TeQ Holdings Limited, Huizhou Top Metal Materials Co. Ltd (TOPM), Hunan Oriental Scandium Co. Ltd, Hunan Rare Earth Metal Material Research Institute, JSC Dalur, Materion Corporation (Cerac Inc.), NioCorp Development Ltd, Platina Resources Limited, Rusal, Scandium International Mining Corp., Sigma-Aldrich (Merck KGaA), Stanford Advanced Materials, Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd (Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp), Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (Alfa Aesar), and Treibacher Industrie AG.