Rutile is a mineral mainly used as a source of titanium. Rutile occurs as transparent or opaque crystals and is available in various colors including black, yellow, golden or reddish brown depending on the source. Rutile has tetragonal crystal structure with two four sided prisms. Rutile is commonly found as an inclusion with other minerals such as quartz and is present as needle or parallel fibers in the minerals. Rutile is also found as an inclusion of several gem stones including star sapphire and is responsible for the asterism effect of gem stones.
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Rutile is abundantly available in nature and synthetic rutile can be manufactured from ilmenite, a mineral used for production of titanium and titanium dioxide. Producing synthetic rutile from ilmenite increases titanium concentration of the mineral thus improving efficiency of titanium extraction process. Ilmenite has titanium concentration of 60% and it is processed to remove several non titanium substances to produce synthetic rutile. Synthetic rutile has titanium concentration of over 85% and is among the most preferred sources of titanium. Major application of rutile comprises production of titanium, titanium dioxide white pigment used in several application segments including plastic, paper, coatings and paints among several others. Two major processes used for processing rutile to manufacture titanium include sulfate process and chloride process.
Sulfate process is the most preferred process in which, rutile is reacted with sulfuric acid which results in residue of unwanted substances in the mineral and titanium is extracted from rutile.
Titanium extraction is the dominant application segment for rutile therefore; demand for rutile is profoundly dependent on demand for titanium metal and titanium dioxide. High concentration of titanium in synthetic rutile is the foremost factor driving demand for rutile. Moreover, abundant availability of rutile also has led to high demand for the mineral. Major end user industries for titanium dioxide include automotive, packaging, construction and electronics among several others. High growth in automotive market is among major factors driving demand for rutile. Easy and abundant availability of ilmenite, used in production of synthetic rutile also has been driving rutile market growth.
Processing rutile to produce titanium metal and titanium dioxide leads to production of hazardous wastes which has led to regulations to control the use of rutile and has restrained the market growth. Research and development to develop an eco friendly process to extract titanium from rutile is anticipated to offer huge growth opportunity in the market.
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Asia Pacific dominates the global rutile market and the trend is expected to continue during the forecast period. Increasing industrial investment and high GDP growth in the emerging economies of India and China is expected to drive market growth in Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific is also expected to be the fastest growing region for rutile demand during the forecast period. North America is the second largest market for rutile followed by Europe. Demand for rutile is expected to grow at a sluggish rate in North America and Europe primarily owing to market saturation in several end user industries. Developing economies of South America and Africa are anticipated to offer huge growth opportunity in the market.