Titanium is a transition metal that is widely-known for being lightweight. It is an element with an atomic weight of 47.90, an atomic number of 22, and chemical symbol Ti.
Making up approximately 0.62% of the crust, titanium is the earth’s number four most abundant metal. It commonly exists in various minerals, including rutile, sphene, brookite, leucoxene, ilmenite and perovskite, and very rarely in its pure form.
Different kinds of titanium alloys have been developed to fully utilize the attributes of titanium in various industries. Elements, such as cobalt, tin, vanadium, molybdenum, zirconium, and aluminum, are alloyed with titanium concentrates to enhance their strength and become more useful.
Today, titanium undergoes the Kroll process in order to produce different final products that can be used for various applications.
Step 1 Titanium manufacturers acquire titanium concentrates from rutile, ilmenite, and other mineral ores by exposing them to 900°C heat, which yields impure titanium tetrachloride and carbon monoxide.
Step 2 The extracted titanium tetrachloride is placed in a distillation tank to be heated. Through fractional distillation and then precipitation, the impurities will be separated, leaving behind purified titanium tetrachloride.
Step 3 The purified titanium tetrachloride in liquid form, plus magnesium, is then placed in a reactor vessel. The stainless steel container is heated to approximately 1,100°C. To prevent nitrogen or oxygen contamination inside, argon has to be pumped in. Once the magnesium starts to react with the chlorine, liquid magnesium chloride is produced and leaves behind pure solid titanium.
Step 4 The pure solid titanium is taken out of the reactor vessel and treated with hydrochloric acid and water to get rid of the excess magnesium chloride and magnesium. The resulting product is what we call a sponge.
Step 5 The pure titanium sponge is then used to create alloys. The appropriate proportions of sponge to alloy metal or material has to be determined prior to melting, welding, and other fabrication processes to make titanium products, such as titanium tubes and pipes.