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What is Titanium?

June 28, 2023

Titanium did not become commonly used as a useful metal alloy until the late 1940s. It is most commonly alloyed with molybdenum, manganese, iron and aluminum. Titanium is one of the strongest metals available by weight, making it ideal for a wide range of practical applications. It is 45% lighter than steel of equivalent strength, twice as strong as aluminum, and only 60% heavier.

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As an element, titanium has an atomic number of 22. It has an atomic mass of 47.867 amu and a relatively high boiling point of 1660 degrees Celsius (3020 degrees Fahrenheit). Titanium 44, Titanium 45, and Titanium 51 are all radioactive isotopes that are produced when deuterons are bombarded.

 

In commercial use, titanium alloys are used wherever strength and weight are an issue. Bicycle frames, automotive and aircraft parts, and structural members are some common examples. Titanium needles are used in medical applications because titanium needles do not react when in contact with bone and flesh. For this reason, many surgical instruments, as well as body piercings, are made of titanium.

Titanium is suggested for desalination plants due to its high resistance to seawater corrosion (especially when coated with platinum). Many ships use titanium for moving parts that are often exposed to seawater, such as propellers and rigging.

 

The military uses titanium extensively for a variety of tasks. Titanium alloys are used in large quantities in missiles, aircraft and helicopters, submarines, and virtually all vehicle coatings. During the Cold War, the Russians built their subs out of titanium to give them higher maximum speeds and greater pressure tolerance (thus allowing them to sail deeper).

 

In jewelry, titanium is one of the most popular metals. This is because it is easy to color and relatively inert. Even people with metal allergies are usually not affected by wearing titanium jewelry.

 

Titanium's commercial applications are not limited to its metal alloys. Both ruby and star sapphire get their star-shaped reflections due to the presence of titanium dioxide, so artificially produced titanium is used in gemstones. Due to its barrier properties, titanium dioxide is also widely used in sunscreens and general-purpose paints. Titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4) is used for aerial writing (writing letters in the air by flying planes).