Titanium is most certainly a superhero of a metal. It is highly resistant to corrosion. It is lighter than steel, heavier than aluminum, and stronger than both of those metals. While it is more expensive to invest in initially, titanium is cheaper over the long run. This is because there is no service, maintenance, or repairs needed. What causes titanium to be so… heroic?
Discovered in 1793 by German chemist M.H. Klaproth, titanium was named after the Titans in Greek mythology since they are the incarnation of natural strength. The element was not isolated until 1910. Titanium is the ninth most abundant element on the planet as it makes up 25% of the earth’s crust. It occurs in nature only in chemical combinations of oxygen and iron.
Titanium is has high passivity. This allows it to have corrosion resistance to many minerals and chlorides. Titanium is very useful in the medical field because of its non-toxicity. It is also biologically compatible human bone and tissue. Titanium is commonly found in medical implantation products and prosthetics.
Titanium is produced first with Australian beach sand. The sand is formed into titanium-containing rutile-ore and chlorinated into a sponge. Chlorine and coke are combined with rutile to produce titanium tetrachloride.
Tetrachloride is reacted to magnesium in a closed system, making the byproducts sponge and magnesium chloride. The magnesium and mag chloride can be removed using the Vacuum Distillation Process to be reused again.
The sponge is melted with scrap and alloying elements. This can include vanadium, zirconium, tin, aluminum, and molybdenum. This is performed in a Vacuum Arc Reduction furnace to produce VAR ingots. It can also be done in an Electron Beam Cold Hearth furnace to produce remote electrodes. They can be VAR melted to meet aerospace requirements, or to direct slabs.
VAR ingots are cylindrical shapes weighing up to 17,500 pounds. The ingots are forged into slabs, or rectangular shapes. They can also be forged into billets, or bar shapes. Ingots can be used for investment casting stock as well.
Further processing or rolling of forged or cast slab or billet result in mill products. These include titanium plates, bars, rods, and titanium wire forms. Production can also create sheets of titanium that can be cut into strips. These strips are then formed into tubes or pipes.
There are many different grades of titanium to be used for different purposes. Grade 1 is one of the four commercially pure titanium grades, along with grades 3 through 4. Grade 1 is soft and the most ductile. It has great formability, toughness, and high corrosion resistance. Grade 1 is available in titanium plate and tubing.
Grade 2 is the workhorse because of its varied usability and availability. It is similar to grade 1 but stronger. Grade 2 has good weldability, strength, ductility, and formability. Grade 2 is available in bar and sheet form.
Grade 3 is the least used, but is stronger than grades 1 and 2. It is less formable but has higher mechanicals. Application of grade 3 is used when strength and major corrosion resistance is needed. Grade 4 is the strongest and has all the traits of previous grades. When high strength is needed, grade 4 is used.
One of the most amazing things about titanium is its use in the medical world. Titanium is used for joint reconstruction. The natural properties in titanium, such as being non-toxic and biologically compatible, make it perfect for body part reconstruction.
Titanium is truly a superhero amongst the different kinds of metals. Its strength, durability, low maintenance requirements, and corrosion resistance make it a popular and useful metal. The formation and grades of titanium show how many applications and uses the metal holds.