Element 22

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Ores of titanium are naturally abundant on earth and, apparently, elsewhere in the universe but it’s not easy to refine and it takes a fair amount of energy to isolate the pure metal.   200 years passed from discovery of the element in England to the first commercially viable production process in 1936.

Perhaps most widely appreciated is the metal’s strength relative to its density.  Grades of pure titanium have a similar tensile strength as mild steel but with only 57% of the density. Compared to the most common structural grade of aluminum, Titanium is twice as strong but only 60% as heavy. When alloyed with other elements, the ratio gets even better. This makes titanium alloys such as 6AL4V (6% aluminum, 4% vanadium) a natural choice for any high performance application where a favorable strength to weight ratio is called for.  It is used extensively in both civilian and military aviation, land vehicles and watercraft.

Another important attribute of titanium is that the human body sees it as completely inert.  It can be placed in the body indefinitely without fear of rejection and bone tissue will even grow onto suitably prepared titanium surfaces.  Combined with its excellent mechanical properties it’s easy to see why titanium is the prime material for joint replacements and other surgical implants.  By itself, this quality of the metal is reason to reconsider how one defines a precious metal.

When selecting the right metal for a job, there are many things to consider, like tensile strength, malleability, machining qualities.   Equally as important in many applications is the look and feel.  While titanium is lauded for it’s mechanical properties, it’s beautiful.  It has a luster of a precious metal and a feel…..

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