Global Titanium and Titanium Alloy Development History

Date: 2016-02-18

Most historians credit William Gregor for the discovery of titanium. In 1791, he was working with menachanite (a mineral found in England) when he recognized the new element and published his results. The element was rediscovered a few years later in the ore rutile by M. H. Klaproth, a German chemist. Klaproth named the element titanium after the mythological giants, the Titans.

Both Gregor and Klaproth worked with titanium compounds. The first significant isolation of nearly pure titanium was accomplished in 1875 by Kirillov in Russia. Isolation of the pure metal was not demonstrated until 1910 when Matthew Hunter and his associates reacted titanium tetrachloride with sodium in a heated steel bomb. This process produced individual pieces of pure titanium. In the mid 1920s, a group of Dutch scientists created small wires of pure titanium by conducting a dissociation reaction on titanium tetraiodide.


These demonstrations prompted William Kroll to begin experimenting with different methods for efficiently isolating titanium. These early experiments led to the development of a process for isolating titanium by reduction with magnesium in 1937. This process, now called the Kroll process, is still the primary process for producing titanium. The first products made from titanium were introduced around the 1940s and included such things as wires, sheets, and rods.

While Kroll’s work demonstrated a method for titanium production on a laboratory scale, it took nearly a decade more before it could be adapted for large-scale production. This work was conducted by the United States Bureau of Mines from 1938 to 1947 under the direction of R. S. Dean. By 1947, they had made various modifications to Kroll’s process and produced nearly 2 tons of titanium metal. In 1948, DuPont opened the first large scale manufacturing operation.

This large scale manufacturing method allowed for the use of titanium as a structural material. In the 1950s, it was used primarily by the aerospace industry in the construction of aircraft. Since titanium was superior to steel for many applications, the industry grew rapidly. By 1953, annual production had reached 2 million lb (907,200 kg) and the primary customer for titanium was the United States military. In 1958, demand for titanium dropped off significantly because the military shifted its focus from manned aircraft to missiles for which steel was more appropriate. Since then, the titanium industry has had various cycles of high and low demand. Numerous new applications and industries for titanium and its alloys have been discovered over the years. Today, about 80% of titanium is used by the aerospace industry and 20% by non-aerospace industries.

First practical titanium alloy was the United States successfully developed Ti-6Al-4V alloy in 1954, because of its heat resistance, strength, ductility, toughness, formability, weldability, corrosion resistance and biocompatibility were all good, so became the ace alloy in titanium alloy industry, the amount of alloy have accounted for 75% to 85% of the total titanium alloys. Many other titanium alloys all can be seen as retrofits of Ti-6Al-4V alloy.

20th Century 50’s~60’s, were mainly high temperature titanium alloy used in developing aero-engine and structure titanium alloy used for airframe, and developed a number of corrosion resistant alloys in 70’s, since the 1980s, corrosion resistant titanium alloy and high-strength titanium alloy have been further developed. Used temperature of resistant titanium alloys have improved to 600 ~ 650 ℃ of 90’s from the 400 ℃ of 50’s. The appearance of A2 (Ti3Al) and r (TiAl) based alloys made the using part of titanium in engine advance to the hot end (turbo) of the engine direction from the engine of the cold side (fan and compressor). Structure titanium alloy developed to high-strength, high-molding, high strength and high toughness, high modulus and high damage tolerance direction.

Moreover, since the 1970s, also appeared in Ti-Ni, Ti-Ni-Fe, Ti-Ni-Nb and other shape memory alloys, and get increasingly widely used in engineering.

Currently, the titanium alloy has been developed in the world have hundreds kinds, the most famous alloys have 20~30 kinds, such as Ti-6Al-4V, Ti-5Al-2.5Sn, Ti-2Al-2.5Zr, Ti-32Mo, Ti-Mo-Ni, Ti-Pd, SP-700, Ti-6242, Ti-10-5-3, Ti-1023, BT9, BT20, IMI829, IMI834 etc..


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