Interesting Facts About Titanium
Titanium was not put to use until the 20th century. Although titanium was discovered in 1791, a large-scale process to refine it was not developed until the late 1940’s. In the United States, the government funded the start-up of the titanium industry for development of titanium as a strategic metal for aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft.
The 1955 General Motors Firebird II experimental concept car’s body was made from titanium. GM’s brochure from the 1956 Motorama auto show referred to titanium as the 'wonder metal'. GM stylist Harley Earl received patent 180509 for his design, which resembles a jet fighter on four wheels. The concept car never went into production, however GM’s Pontiac division later adopted the Firebird name for their very popular muscle car.
Titanium is a popular material for racing bike frames. Titanium bicycle frames weigh just 2.5 pounds on average. Speedwell of England made a few extremely expensive titanium frames in the 1960s, welded by exotic automaker Lamborghini. These were ridden to victory in mountain stages of the Tour de France. The first titanium bicycle frames produced in quantity appeared in 1974. Titanium’s advantage for bicycle frames comes from its low density (weight), high strength, extended fatigue life, and corrosion resistance. Titanium frames now sell for up to $2,800.
In the 1950’s Titanium was dubbed; 'Wonder Metal', 'Strategic Metal', and 'Metal of the Future'. Titanium’s unique physical qualities of low density and weight, high strength, durability, corrosion resistance and biological compatibility make it useful in a variety of applications. Titanium is used in aircraft and spacecraft, surgical skeletal implants, eyeglass frames, sports equipment, watches, and jewelry.
In the periodic table of elements, Titanium is atomic number 22, meaning that an atom of titanium has 22 protons in its nucleus. By definition, atoms have no overall electrical charge, therefore they have an equal number of protons and electrons. So an atom of titanium contains 22 electrons since it contains 22 protons.
Lockheed’s SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, first flown in 1964, was made almost entirely of titanium. The SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft’s airframe was 93% titanium to withstand the 500 degrees F skin temperature generated at Mach 3.2 speed. The SR-71 was dubbed the 'Blackbird' for its all black appearance. The silver-gray titanium skin was painted black to help dissipate heat and prevent reflected sunlight from blinding the pilot.
Compared to other structural metals, titanium is expensive because it is expensive to refine. Titanium is never found in its pure form. It must be extracted and refined from the mineral rutile, which requires a significant amount of electrical energy and human labor. The major producers of titanium are Russia, Kazakhstan and Japan.
The first submarine constructed with a titanium hull was called the Soviet Project 661 - The Anchar. Construction of the Anchar began in 1963 at Sevmash, and was handed over to the Soviet navy in 1969. Because of its lightweight titanium hull and liquid metal reactor plant, the Anchar set a world underwater speed record (44.7 knots or 51 miles per hour), which remains unbroken.
Titanium dioxide, a white pigment chemical compound made from titanium can be found in paint and the letter 'M' imprinted on M&M’s© candies. Titanium dioxide pigment accounts for the largest percentage (up to 95%) of worldwide use for titanium. The pigment has great luster, good endurance, high opacity (it hides whatever is under it) and a pure white color. The pigment is used to provide color for food, cosmetics, paint, plastics, textiles, ink, leather, ceramics and paper.
Apple Computer manufactured a laptop computer with a titanium case. Introduced in 2001, the Apple G4 Titanium PowerBook was the first portable computer with a titanium case. The case was 99.5% pure grade titanium and the entire computer weighed 5.3 pounds. The titanium case was stronger than the magnesium cases that several other notebook makers used.
The first building built in the US with a titanium exterior was the Cerritos Public Library - Cerritos, California. The Cerritos Public Library’s exterior was clad in titanium during its second renovation in 2002. However, the most famous building clad in titanium is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain. A total of 343,000 sq. ft. of titanium covers the Museum’s exterior. It was built in 1997 by architect Frank O. Gehry who later designed the Experience Music Project interactive museum in Seattle.
34,200 pounds of titanium is used in Boeing’s passenger jet, the 777. Twelve percent of the 285,000-pound finished weight of a Boeing 777 is made up of titanium. The 777, which entered service in 1995, is the most titanium-intensive commercial airplane ever designed - both on a percentage and an absolute weight basis.
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