UTRS Titanium

About Titanium

Titanium, the tenth most commonly occurring element in the Earth's crust, is a corrosion-resistant material with high strength, a high melting point, and a density approximately 60% that of iron's. These characteristics make titanium applicable to and the material of choice for many engineering applications.

Titanium is used in the following industries:

  • Aerospace
  • Medical
  • Chemical
  • Nuclear and oil
  • Automotive
  • Shipbuilding
  • Architecture
  • Athletic equipment

One problem with using titanium is the cost-prohibitive process of extracting the metal from its ore, rutile. Titanium has to be reduced in the presence of either sodium or magnesium, both of which must first be extracted from their respective ores, which makes the process expensive. And the refinement or extraction of titanium from its ore is done by a batch process (meaning it can only be refined one batch at a time) rather than a production process, which is energy-inefficient and expensive.

Titanium was first discovered in an impure form by Rev. William Gregor in England in 1791. German chemist Martin Kloprothy later named it "titanium" after the Titan gods of Greek mythology.

In 1910, pure titanium was manufactured by American chemist M.A. Hunter. Hunter was able to extract the metal from the ores and developed the process of mixing the ore (TiO2) with chlorine and coke, then applying extreme heat to produce titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4), which was further reduced with sodium to form titanium.

In 1946, Dr. Wilhelm Kroll developed the process currently used to produce titanium commercially. While the Kroll process reduces TiCl4 with magnesium to produce a purer form of the metal, it is inefficient and expensive.

Titanium Facts

  • Lustrous, silver metal
  • Superior strength, yet lightweight
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Can withstand extreme temperatures
  • Can be fabricated into a variety of parts
  • Biocompatible (for medical implants used in the human body)

The properties of titanium and its alloys that are important to design engineers have proven to be technically superior for a wide variety of aerospace, industrial, marine and commercial applications. In North America, approximately 70% of the titanium consumed is used for aerospace applications. Due to the expansion of existing applications and the development of new uses, the greatest growth will occur in the industrial, marine and commercial sectors.

The combination of high strength and low density results in exceptionally favorable strength-to-weight ratios for titanium-based alloys. These ratios, superior to almost all other metals, play an important role in the petroleum industry and in the medical field, specifically with regard to surgical implants.