Tricks of the Trade | What Is Titanium?
Titanium as a useful metal alloy was not commonly used until the late 1940s. It is most often alloyed with molybdenum, manganese, iron, and aluminum. By weight titanium is one of the strongest readily available metals, making it ideal for wide range of practical applications. It is 45% lighter than steel with comparable strength, and twice as strong as aluminum while being only 60% heavier.
As an element, Titanium has an atomic number of 22. Its atomic mass is 47.867 amu, it has a relatively high boiling point of 1660 Celsius (3020 Fahrenheit). Titanium-44, Titanium-45, and Titanium-51 are all radioactive isotopes, created when it is bombarded with deuterons.
In commercial use, titanium alloys are used anywhere strength and weight are an issue. Bicycle frames, automobile and plane parts, and structural pieces are some common examples. In medical use titanium pins are used because of their non-reactive nature when contacting bone and flesh. Many surgical instruments, as well as body piercings are made of titanium for this reason as well.
Titanium is suggested for use in desalinization plants because of its strong resistance to corrosion from sea water (particularly when coated with platinum). Many ships use titanium for moving components constantly exposed to sea water, such as propellers and rigging.
The military uses titanium extensively for a wide array of tasks. Missiles, airplanes and helicopters, submarines, and virtually all vehicular plating use substantial amounts of titanium alloy. During the Cold War the Russians constructed submarines from titanium to give them higher maximum velocities and a higher tolerance for pressure (thereby allowing them to travel deeper).
In jewelry, titanium is one of the most popular metals. This is due to its ability to be colored easily, and its relative inertness. Even people with hypersensitivities to metals are often unaffected by wearing titanium jewelry.
The commercial applications of titanium are not limited to its metallic alloys. Both rubies and star sapphires get their star-shaped reflection with the presence of TiO2, and titanium is therefore produced artificially for use in gemstones. TiO2 is also used extensively in sunscreens as a result of its shielding properties, and as a general-purpose paint. Titanium tetrachloride, TiCl4, is used in skywriting (where letters are written in the sky by a passing plane).