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Titanium in the Aerospace Industry

Posted by Don Ascione on February 3, 2016

Titanium is a lightweight, yet strong, uniquely versatile metal.

These characteristics make titanium a preferred choice for use in the aerospace industry. By their very nature, aerospace applications demand parts that are both very light and extremely strong.

The lighter an object is, the easier it is to make it airborne; at the same time, passengers and cargo require protection from the high speeds and altitudes, so strength is also an important factor. Aerospace industry applications present a unique problem, and titanium is a uniquely qualified solution.

A Brief History

By the 1930s, Dr. Wilhelm Kroll began using magnesium to process pure metallic titanium.

The Kroll process allowed for the widespread commercial creation of titanium and, by the 1940s, titanium became the material of choice for the Department of Defense.

To this day, titanium remains one of few metals capable of meeting the high standards required by modern aerospace applications.

Because of this, the aerospace industry is among the largest purchasers of raw titanium and titanium products — purchasing nearly 11% of all titanium alloy.

Benefits of Titanium

Titanium’s most important benefit is its low weight or, more specifically, its excellent weight-to-strength ratio. A material’s weight-to-strength is determined by dividing its strength (as measured by force per area at failure) by its density.

Because titanium has both high strength and low density, its weight-to-strength ratio is excellent — this allows it to be used to reduce the weight of an aircraft without sacrificing the aircraft’s structural integrity.

Use of titanium in aircraft can also increase that aircraft’s range while decreasing its fuel use. A lighter aircraft requires less fuel to fly, allowing for fewer refueling stops and subsequently longer time periods spent in continuous flight.

Over the course of an aircraft’s lifespan — anywhere from 20 to 50 years or more — decreased fuel use results in considerable decreases in overall operational costs.

In addition to its beneficial weight-to-strength ratio, titanium is also highly resistant to corrosion. When exposed to air or pure oxygen at high temperatures, titanium forms a passive oxide coating.

This coating continues to grow, often reaching thickness of 25 nanometers (nm) up to 4 years after treatment. This passivating layer protects the titanium from oxidation and other forms of corrosion.

Thermal expansion describes the tendency of a material to change its shape, volume, and area due to changes in temperature.

Thermal expansion of a material can weaken it, cause deformation, create cracks, or cause it to break or fail overall. Titanium has a naturally low thermal expansion rate, making it an ideal material for use in aircraft, which experience great temperature changes at different altitudes and in different climates.

Titanium from Continental Steel

Continental Steel & Tube is a metal supplier and distributor with 30 years of experience. We supply a large variety of titanium aerospace parts, including aircraft engine blades, compressor wheels, impeller pumps, and connecting rods, to name a few. Aside from premade parts, we also maintain an expansive inventory of raw titanium, including:

To learn more about aerospace grade titanium and titanium parts, contact Continental Steel & Tube today.

Topics: metals, steel, coated steel

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