The History of Titanium
Where it Came From and How it’s Made
The Greek God “Titan,” the God of enormous strength, is where this metal got it’s name and it has been around since 1790.
The process that allowed the metal to be extracted from the ore wasn’t discovered until 1910 in England by M.A. Hunter. Mr. Hunter discovered this by mixing Ti02 with coke and chlorine. TiC14 was produced when heat was applied to the Ti02. Then the Ti40 was reduced using the sodium. This method was used as an alloying agent in the production of steel. Also, a very lustrous white pigment was a bi-product of the Ti02 and was used specifically in paint for this reason.
Hunter’s process was the reason the metal was able to be extracted from the ore, however it only worked on a small scale. Dr. Willheim Kroll later created a process that reduced the titanium effectively, so that it could be used in large manufacturing efforts. Instead of using sodium to reduce the metal he used magnesium. This process was named after its founder and is known today as the Kroll process.
The Kroll process was a major improvement in the extraction process, however it did not recover the unreacted magnesium metal and it left a chloride residue. Kroll was able to fix this with the application of vacuum distillation. As of today, Vacuum Distillation combined with the Kroll process is the most common way of extracting the metal from the ore.
The Military Makes it a Viable Alternative
Titanium has been used to create many factory manufactured objects, but it made its mark in the US when The Douglas Aircraft X3 Stiletto was designed by using titanium. The US Department of Defense determined titanium to be the “metal of choice” in military aircrafts in the mid 1940’s. The metallurgical characteristics of metal combined with the fact that it was commercially available was the basis of the military recognition.
It was decades before titanium was explored in the “industrial” market. It had been considered an “aerospace metal” only. The discovery of it being used as a tubing product in heat exchangers for power generators proved to be extremely successful. This was because of the corrosion properties of the metal.
How it is Being Used Today
Titanium has very unique characteristics and as the market became more familiar with the metal other applications began to be designed as well. The next place where this metal was used successfully was in chemical processing equipment such as heat transfer equipment, piping systems, pressure vessels, and osmosis.
This metal has found its way into many applications over the past 25 years. You can find it in the medical field being used in hospitals and by dentists in ways such as wheelchairs and implants. It is found in recreational equipment as well. For example, golf clubs, bicycles, and tennis rackets all have been made with titanium. Many people have allergic reactions to certain types of metal. Titanium metal does not have this effect, so jewelry is a common consumer item.
As this “God of enormous strength” metal continues to evolve we will continue to find unimaginable new uses for it. Who knows what the future holds in the incredible world of titaniuum.