From the Latin titans, the first sons of the Earth, Greek mythology.
Discovered by Gregor in 1791; named by Klaproth in 1795. Impure titanium was prepared by Nilson and Pettersson in 1887; however, the pure metal (99.9%) was not made until 1910 when Hunter heated TiCl4 with sodium in a steel bomb.
Titanium is present in meteorites and the sun. Rocks obtained during the Apollo 17 lunar mission showed presence of 12.1% TiO2; rocks obtained during earlier Apollo missions show lower percentages.
Titanium oxide bands are prominent in the spectra of M-type stars. The element is the ninth most abundant in the crust of the earth. Titanium is almost always present in igneous rocks and in the sediments derived from them.
It occurs in the minerals rutile, ilmenite, and sphene, and is present in titanates and in many iron ores. Titanium is present in ash of coal, in plants, and in human body.
The metal was a laboratory curiosity until Kroll, in 1946, showed that titanium could be produced commercially by reducing titanium tetrachloride with magnesium. This method is still largely used for producing the metal. The metal can be purified by decomposing the iodide.
Titanium is important as an alloying agent with aluminum, molybdenum, manganese, iron, and other metals. Alloys of titanium are principally used for aircraft and missiles where lightweight strength and ability to withstand extremes of temperature are important.
Titanium is as strong as steel, but 45% lighter. It is 60% heavier than aluminum, but twice as strong.
Titanium has potential use in desalination plants for converting sea water into fresh water. The metal has excellent resistance to sea water and is used for propeller shafts, rigging, and other parts of ships exposed to salt water. A titanium anode coated with platinum has been used to provide cathodic protection from corrosion by salt water.
It is produced artificially for use as a gemstone, but it is relatively soft. Star sapphires and rubies exhibit their asterism as a result of the presence of TiO2.
Titanium dioxide is extensively used for both house paint and artist's paint, because it is permanent and has good covering power. Titanium oxide pigment accounts for the largest use of the element. Titanium paint is an excellent reflector of infrared, and is extensively used in solar observatories where heat causes poor viewing conditions.
Titanium tetrachloride is used to iridize glass. This compound fumes strongly in air and has been used to produce smoke screens.
Natural titanium consists of five isotopes with atomic masses from 46 to 50. All are stable. Eight other unstable isotopes are known.