A Bit of History
200 years ago, Dr. Martin H. Klaproth, a German chemist, named titanium after the Titans in Greek mythology. Until then the element was called Menachite. Titanium was originally discovered by Reverend William Gregor in 1791, in Cornwall . Titanium 's official recognition as a new element occurred in 1795, four years following Gregor 's discovery when, Klaproth, having found titanium in rutile ore, determined that titanium was indeed an element.
The road to industrialized titanium was long and challenging, as no one knew how to isolate titanium from its ore. Lars Nilson and Otto Pettersson accomplished the first successful isolation in 1887. However, the product was only 95% pure titanium.
Using his electric furnace, Henri Moissan produced 98% pure titanium. With the help of the General Electric Company, Matthew Hunter finally isolated titanium at 99.9% purity in 1910. His success gave us the Hunter process, heating TiC14 and sodium in a steel crucible to 800 *C. In 1946, William Justin Kroll introduced the Kroll process, which made possible the production of titanium on a commercial scale. The Kroll process, reducing titanium tetrachloride with magnesium, is used to this day.
In 1948, the titanium industry exploded. The U.S. Government financed the production of titanium as the “strategic” metal for use in producing spacecraft, aircraft, and missiles. The U.S. production of titanium went from 2 tons in 1947 to 1000 tons by 1953. No metal in history has received as much worldwide attention as titanium has.
The largest quantities of titanium ore are found in Australia , Canada , Scandinavia , North America , the Republic of South Africa , and Malaysia . The most significant production of titanium occurs in the U.S.S.R., United States , Japan , the United Kingdom , and China .
At a rate of 8% per year, titanium production has continued to grow. It has moved from being primarily a military interest into the world of commerce becoming a popular metal used in a wide range of commercial products.
Titanium, the fourth most abundant structural metal on Earth forming .6% of the Earths crust, and the ninth most common element (Ti, atomic number 22), can be found in many places, including; the human body, coal ash, and plants as well as on the sun, moon and in meteorites. It is a smoky grey metal, slightly darker in tone than platinum, and lightweight. Since it is resistant to salt water and acid corrosion, titanium is used to make durable corrosion resistant alloys. Titanium's strength is comparable to steel while being as light as aluminum. The strength and durability of titanium makes it more difficult to process than most metals.
For the artist, titanium's light weight and durability are certainly appealing, however it is it's colorful response to heat that first attracted Ferdinand Brigati in 1972. He was working for a fabrication company in Southern California supplying titanium-plating products, mainly for chemical companies. In his early experiments he began applying heat to pieces of titanium that he welded together creating sculptures. The first color reached when heat is applied to titanium is gold and the highest temperatures create green and cobalt.
The process used to create color in titanium is called anodizing. This process creates a layer of titanium dioxide and adds an altered surface, which gives titanium a range of color without the use of dyes. Anodizing includes use of an electrical current with varying voltages creating colors that vary depending on the voltage. The anodized surface gives the appearance of color when light rays that pass through the anodized surface bounce back (reflected off the titanium) and collide with incoming light rays passing through the anodized surface.
Titanium is non-corrosive, hypoallergenic with a high strength to weight ratio. These qualities make it the metal of choice in the production of many commercial applications including: eye glass frames, bicycle frames, surgical implants, aircraft, spacecraft, armor plating, naval ships, tennis rackets, golf clubs, watches, architecture, laptop computer cases, as well as jewelry.
The highest percentage of titanium production is for the use of titanium oxide. Titanium oxide is used in creating white pigment used in some food products, paint and toothpaste, paper and plastic products. It is also used to make the white paint on road markings and in white fireworks. Due to its reflective qualities, titanium oxide is used in sunscreen products as well.