The properties of titanium and why it is a useful material

Named after the titans of Greek mythology, titanium has become one of the most popular materials in the world. Strong and lightweight, it can be used for aircraft parts, in military applications and also for surgical implants. The refractory metal has redefined various industries, reducing maintenance costs and guaranteeing a prolonged service life.

Titanium has a number of specific properties, being used either in its commercially pure form or as alloys. As you will see, the primary attribute which makes titanium an attractive material is the high strength-to-weight ratio. The metal also has excellent corrosion resistance, it is compatible with the human body and it can be used for combat vehicles, thanks to its excellent ballistic resistance.

High strength-to-weight ratio

Both commercially-pure titanium and its alloys, in different forms – titanium alloy bar, titanium alloy sheet – have high strength and low weight. You might be interested to know that titanium is as strong as steel but it is forty percent lighter in weight. This is one of the main reasons for which titanium is preferred as a structural metal for aerospace applications.

Titanium is a strong metal, with a low density. Given this property, as well as the resistance to high temperature, it should come as no surprise that the metal is used in the aerospace industry. Both airplane parts and fasteners can be made from titanium. The same goes for gas turbine engines and other parts, such as heat shields, compressors blades, engine cowlings and casings.

This ratio can lead to weight savings, making titanium an excellent choice for aircraft parts, such as the landing gear (Boeing, Airbus). Moreover, it has a high resistance to corrosion, which can mean a reduction in the maintenance costs for the respective landing gear structure. The same properties have made titanium a preferred choice for automotive applications – both regular vehicles and racing cars can use connecting rods made from titanium.

Excellent resistance to corrosion

Titanium has an excellent resistance to corrosion, including when exposed to seawater and chemical substances. What happens is that a thin layer for titanium dioxide forms on its surface, making it difficult for other materials to penetrate the respective structure. Its resistance to corrosion is another reason that led to titanium being used for aircrafts.

At ambient temperature, the metal reacts with both water and air, forming the above-mentioned coating. This protects the structure in question from further oxidation. Interestingly, the protective layer will continue to grow with the passing of time.

Given its resistance to corrosion , titanium can resist attacks from organic acids, as well as from dilute sulfuric and hydrochloric acids. However, it does react with gases, including nitrogen and oxygen. For this reason, titanium filaments are used in vacuum systems – the metal is an integral part of pumps.

The metal finishing industry relies on the use of titanium for the making of linings, heat exchanger coils and jigs. Titanium is a popular material in the chemical processing industry as well, as it can resist both chlorine and acid. It can be used for the development of the heat exchanger titanium coil, pumps and titanium valves.

In the oil refining industry, titanium is used for the making of condenser tubes and appreciated for its exceptional corrosion resistance. As it resists to corrosion even when in seawater, titanium has been employed for various equipment items used in desalination plants.

Given this resistance, titanium has been used as coating, guaranteeing absolute best protection to structures exposed to seawater (submarines, ship hulls). Titanium oxide has excellent covering powering, being used as a paint pigment or enamel. Both the plastics and the paper industry have made use of titanium oxide, which a bright white pigment.

Low modulus of elasticity

Even though titanium does not have a high flexibility rate, it does return to its original shape after being bent. Titanium is nevertheless ductile, particularly when being used in oxygen-free environments.

The low modulus has led to titanium being used as a replacement for steel springs. With a modulus half as the one of steel, this meant that the number of necessary coils could be reduced to half. This automatically translated into weight savings, as well as reduced maintenance costs (corrosion resistance and high strength).

Biocompatibility

As titanium has a high biocompatibility percentage, being non-toxic and non-allergenic, it has found an increasing use in the medical field. Titanium is today used for the development of medical implants.

These include joint replacements, especially for the hips and elbows, as well as pacemakers, tooth implants and defibrillators. Doctors were even able to use titanium for the development of an artificial heart. Titanium crutches are considered to be more effective and resistant on a long-term basis.

High melting point

Titanium has a relatively high melting point, which makes it an excellent refractory metal. The metal is often used in solar observatories, reflecting the infrared radiation and improving visibility (poor visibility is caused by heat).

Other properties of titanium

Whether we are talking about the titanium tube, titanium sheet or titanium bar, it is important to remember that all of these items are non-magnetic. Strong and less dense as steel, titanium is used for the development of spacecraft parts and missiles.

In the past few years, titanium has also been used for the making of sporting goods, such as golf clubs, bicycles and ice skates. Today, even laptops have certain parts made from titanium. As for titanium oxide, this is used as an ingredient in sunscreens; given its refractory and coating properties, it can prevent UV light from reaching the skin.

Titanium has an excellent ballistic resistance, being used for adequate protection in military applications. It offers weight savings, especially in comparison to other materials such as steel or aluminum.

The metal is used in military ground combat vehicles; as these vehicles are lighter, they can be more efficiently maneuvered and the transportability quality increases. Moreover, titanium has excellent corrosion resistance and it is highly compatible with composites, being ideal for infantry fighting vehicles and battle tanks.

A final word

The main properties of titanium include the high strength-to-weight ratio, excellent corrosion resistance and low elasticity modulus. Titanium is compatible with the human body, it has a high melting point and it has efficient refractory properties. All of these characteristics make it an ideal choice for today’s high demands of various industries, including the aerospace, military and chemical processing ones.