Titanium in the News – 2018

Titanium is one of the most popular materials today, being appreciated for its high strength, low weight and incredible resistance to corrosion. Researchers keep on finding applications for titanium, with alloys being used in the aerospace industry.

Numerous other industries have begun using titanium for some time now, including the military, automotive and medical fields. Keep on reading and discover the latest news on titanium, the metal of the future.

New method of forging titanium

The researchers at the Defense, Science and Technology Lab, in Porton Down (Salisbury, UK), have found a new way to produce titanium. According to their discovery, titanium could be forged in just two simple steps (as opposed to the previous method, requiring approximately forty stages).

If titanium could be produced so easily, it would allow for the creation of parts and equipment for the automotive sector, the military and other industries. Until now, titanium was not used on a large scale, as it had a longer production time and larger costs.

Thanks to this ground-breaking method, it would be possible to produce titanium from powder. It is also worth mentioning that the resulting metal could be used to create components for fighter jets, as well as nuclear submarines and patients who need replacement limbs.

Titanium plates for fixation & bone tissue repair

Researchers at Shinshu University have tested a new titanium plate, which could safely be used for either fixation or bone tissue repair. This is actually a titanium fiber plate, which could replace conventional plates and solve a very important problem.

At the moment, a titanium plate has to be removed after the bone has healed, so as not to cause bone embrittlement (this occurs due to the close contact of the bone and plate, for a long period of time). As the plate has to be removed, this poses an additional number of risks for the patient.

The titanium fiber plate is made through the compression of titanium fibers, at room temperature (fiber shape remains the same). Interestingly, these plates have almost the same stiffness level as the natural bone (if these levels would be different, the risk of embrittlement is considerably higher).

This discovery could make a tremendous difference in the field of regenerative medicine. It could allow for the effective bone tissue repair, without these plates having to be removed once the healing is complete.

Titanium could be extracted from oil sands waste

According to a research project proposed by the Canadian Natural Resources and Titanium Corporation, valuable metals, such as titanium, could be extracted from oil sands waste. A new technology would be used for the accomplishment of this project, in northern Alberta.

For the extraction of titanium, researchers would use the waste generated by the bitumen production. This is an interesting development, especially if we stop for a moment and consider the environmental footprint of oil sands. It is a known fact that the resulting bitumen and solvents go into the atmosphere, increasing the number of emissions.

Titanium would be siphoned from the oil sands waste, which is beneficial for the associated industry. The extracted metal could be used to make titanium piping and other similar products, such as titanium pipe fittings and titanium valves. Of course, one must also remember the positive environmental impact.

A titanium-based exoskeleton tested in Russia for the military

Russian researchers have recently developed an exoskeleton, which in the future could be used in the military field. This is an active-powered device, with an integrated electric motor and a storage battery. The main purpose of the exoskeleton is to guarantee higher target accuracy.

The project is only at the beginning, with further research being necessary to determine how the exoskeleton would move with the wearer. The interesting point is the choice of material, meaning titanium. This is a strong, yet lightweight material, which would allow one to move with efficiency in the battlefield.

When finished, researchers are hoping that the titanium-based exoskeleton would enhance the soldiers’ physical abilities and allow them to carry more combat gear. As one will be able to move more effectively and with a lot more armament, it will allow for the successful accomplishment of combat objectives.

Titanium performance in orthopedic applications improved through surface nanostructuring

In the past few years, metallic materials have become increasingly used for the creation of orthopedic devices and implants. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) have demonstrated that titanium performance could be improved through a method known as surface nanostructuring. This, in turn, could have a beneficial effect on future orthopedic applications.

When an implant is created, there are a number of factors that will influence its performance. These are split into two different categories, meaning mechanical and biological (material response). The fatigue strength and wear degree are mechanical responses, while the biological ones include inflammation and toxicity.

On the other hand, nanocrystalline materials, titanium included, offer a superior biological response. These have been obtained in the lab through a number of deformation techniques, among which SMAT seems to be the most effective (SMAT stands for surface mechanical attrition treatment).

SMAT is considered a promising technology for the creation of such materials, which could be further used to develop high-performance orthopedic implants. Thus, patients could benefit from implants that can be maintained throughout the entire life (lower risk of rejection, infection or inflammation).

Final word

As you have seen, titanium applications only continue to extend, with new technologies and techniques making it even more versatile. From the titanium plate that could be used for bone tissue repair to the titanium extracted from oil sands, we are definitely seeing this metal more and more as part of innovative research.