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Titanium Knowledge
2013-04-01
Titanium is a rugged, low density and extremely corrosion resistant metal that is nearly 30 percent stronger and 50 percent lighter than steel. The majority of naturally occurring titanium appears lustrous white and is found in a number of materials, primarily ilmenite, leucoxene and rutile. Ilmenite is by far the world’s greatest source of titanium. Pure titanium is referred to as “sponge,” due to its porous, cellular nature. Commercially pure (CP) titanium, although valued for its corrosion resistance, has a much lower strength-to-weight ratio than many modest steels. Therefore, titanium is often alloyed with other elements to provide a material of superior strength and corrosion resistance.

Though quite abundant in the earth’s crust, titanium is an expensive material. Its high cost arises from its refinery, tooling and processing costs. Because titanium is found only in other materials and never in its pure form, it must be extracted. A significant amount of electrical energy and human labor is required to accomplish its purification. Titanium requires specially made forming equipment, as it is a tough metal, whether in its pure form or alloyed with other materials. Titanium must also be heat-treated and annealed in an oxygen-free environment, as it reacts with the gases in the air. Finally, titanium must be annealed several times, especially in the tube-forming process, because titanium work hardens easily.

Titanium is primarily alloyed with aluminum, molybdenum, iron and manganese, as well as other metals. These alloys are used in applications in which lightweight strength and extreme heat resistance are required, such as in the aerospace industry. Titanium dioxide is used to make soft, man-made gemstones and in paints. This alloy is permanent, provides good coverage and is an excellent reflector of infrared radiation. Titanium tetrachloride is used to iridize glass and to produce smoke screens, as the compound strongly fumes when exposed to air. Titanium has many surgical applications, due to the fact that it is inert in the human body. The greatest use of titanium is in titanium oxide pigments.