Home > Metals & Minerals, Pure Science, SCIENCE Report > Titanium Oxide – An Unsung Hero

Titanium Oxide – An Unsung Hero

Have you ever wondered what makes white stuff so brilliantly white? Or what it is that makes reflective surfaces shine so brightly in the light? Well, from this point forward you’ll know that the unsung hero of the Industrial World is Titanium Dioxide – or to those of you who already know and love it, TiO2. Titanium is found in everything from Class M Stars, to your tube of toothpaste, yet most other people have still never even heard of the stuff. So let’s start with a very quick rundown of Titanium Oxide’s highly impressive resume and it’s countless current applications, before we go on to discover the monumental impact that TiO2’s will soon have on some very exciting new and emerging technologies, which demonstrate its enormous potential for enabling a wide range of truly futuristic applications as well. Potential that will certainly dwarf it’s already enormous contributions to Technology, Industry, and Society at large.

So TiO2 enables us to drive safely at night with it’s brilliantly bright signs and markings, without risking tragedy on darkened roads, and this is where our discover begins…

This past Summer there was an untimely shortage in pavement marking paint that was seemingly caused by a coincidental collision of several key factors, the most telling of which was a sudden scarcity for TiO2 –  This shortage may have briefly threatened the cashflow/credit for an entire economic sector, but aside from raising the possibility that there are business related (ie. supply/demand) price adjustments behind this curious shortage of paint, this near-crisis also provided us reason to discover just how essential TiO2 is to road construction and so very many other industries and products as well.

So without any further ado…

Let’s take that quick rundown…Starting with the fact that Titanium is the 7th most abundant element on Earth, sourced primarily from  Ilmenite (FeTiO3) and rutile (TiO2).

Although Titanium Oxides have huge and important roles in many Industries, the also very valuable and incredibly useful metallic Titanium has historically been rather expensive to derive (or “reduce”) into a usefully ductile metallic form, for use in physical constructions and products. Ongoing efforts at to replace the very expensive Kroll process (for reducing raw Titanium to a metallic form) have resulted in a recently commercialized and exciting new method called the FFC Cambridge process. This breakthrough promises to reduce the cost of Titanium by 25-50% and literally turn it into a common metal for commercial products, rather than reserving it for the most specialized aerospace and sporting applications. Here are other products and applications that we can expect to see becoming more common as the costs of processing Titanium hopefully come down with new processes.

Current Applications

TiO2 is a safe, key material in the following product categories and technologies.
  • Pigments for Paint (Used in 70% of white pigments worldwide for superlative pure white colour)
  • Pigments for Highway Marking Paint (Highly Reflective – used to paint Saturn 5 rockets and the Canadian Snowbirds )
  • Pigments for Cosmetics
  • UV Blocker for Sunscreen
  • Food Colouring (Titanium dioxide is often used to whiten skimmed milk; this has been shown statistically to increase skimmed milk’s palatability.)
  • Ceramic Titanium Cookware (offers a non-chemical perma-nonstick coating that will not wear out)
  • Bicycles frames, and sporting goods that require ultra-light-high-tensile strength
  • Titanium dioxide on silica is being developed as a form of odor control in cat litter.
  • Recently incorporated as a photocatalyst into dental bleaching products, that alleviates the surface deforming effects of peroxide.
  • Used by film and television companies as a substitute for snow when filming scenes which require a winter setting.
  • Used to make implants for orthopedia and dental surgery. Titanium dioxide is what allows osseointegration (healing) between an artificial medical implant and bone.
  • A superb metal for jewelry that is completely non-allergenic, and is ideal for swimmers due to it’s resistance to the effects of salt and chlorine.

So…Where do we go from here

Titanium has already been into Outer Space, and it’s resistance to pressure and corrosion has brought it down to the deepest ocean depths…but the countless current applications are nothing compared to where Titanium will be going in the Future…Because not only is Titanium super strong, light, safe, brilliant, and reflective…IT also does incredible things when exposed to various wavelengths of light…and promises to have a huge impact on all sorts of Environmental and Energy technologies…

about this incredible gift of nature.

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  1. 17/09/2010 at 3:48 PM

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