Titanium in its natural form is found widely in the earth’s crust as titanium powder, from this state it is extracted and processed to remove unwanted materials after which converted into a usable product. The end to end process is complex and the effort of which determines prices of titanium. Titanium sponge is the raw type of titanium that is produced over the first stage of manufacturing the metal.
The Titanium conversion process is called the Kroll process. This is a sophisticated, multi step and involves batch processing which needs very high temperatures and advanced equipment to complete. The Kroll process converts the metal oxide into chloride by passing the metal over extremely hot rutile or ilmenite and carbon to produce titanium tetrachloride. These chemicals are separated through a process called fractional distillation in which the components of a mixture are separated based upon their different boiling points.
The material resulting from the Kroll process is the titanium sponge powder. This sponge is then subjected to leaching or heated vacuum distillation to remove the impurities. The remaining materials from the sponge are jack hammered, crushed, pressed and melted to remove even more of the impurities.
The next stage of the process the titanium sponge is melted. It is then put through fractional distillation to remove excess liquid and combined with molten magnesium, iron aluminium vanadium or molybdenum and argon in a very hot furnace. The intention of combining these materials is to add strength and stability to the titanium sponge and create a pliable metal alloy.
The military uses titnaium extensively for a wide range of tasks. Missiles, air-planes and helicopters, submarines, and almost all vehicular plating use substantial quantities of titanium alloy. In the Cold War, the Russians constructed submarines from it to give them higher maximum velocities and a higher tolerance for pressure, thereby allowing them to travel deeper.
In jewellery titanium is amongst the most popular metal because it can be colored easily, and with its relative inertness even people with hypersensitivities to metals are often not affected by objects made from it.
The commercial uses of this element are not restricted to its metallic alloys. Both rubies and star sapphires get their star-shaped reflection with the existence of titanium dioxide (TiO2), and the metal 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 sky-writing, where letters are written in the sky with a passing plane.