Corrosion Resistance – and More Titanium Properties
The Many Faces of Titanium
So what do aerospace engineers, golf club designers, petroleum engineers, and consumer electronics marketers find so attractive about titanium? The Earth’s natural order gave titanium all the right stuff:
It’s Light: Titanium is one of 38 transition metals on the periodic table of elements. Unlike other useful elements like iron, nickel, and cobalt, titanium lies on the extreme light end of the chart. It has relatively few electrons, protons, and neutrons –the particles that give atoms their mass. As a result, the titanium atom weighs in lighter than 36 of the 38 transition metals.
To learn more about why titanium is light, read our article about titanium aerospace castings.
It’s Tough: Now take those lightweight atoms and stack them together to form a titanium crystal. Nature packs them together in a three-dimensional hexagon–the most efficient, stable, and stress resistant of the metallic crystal structures. This gives titanium its natural strength to temperatures of about 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s so Reactive that it’s Stable. (Huh?) It’s a paradox alright, but titanium’s atomic structure makes it want to react chemically. So much so, in fact, that bare titanium reacts with oxygen in the air to form an invisible, nanometers-thin oxide layer on its surface. That layer is so tough and impenetrable it protects the underlying metal from reacting with anything else. That makes titanium incredibly useful to prevent seawater corrosion and to prevent chemical corrosion.
There’s a LOT of it! Titanium is 9th most abundant element in the earth’s crust. It’s found in almost all igneous rocks (think “volcano stuff”) and is a major export for Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the Ukraine.