Product Development Manager
The name ‘titanium’ was originally chosen for the metal on account of its high strength/density ratio, which means it can be used for aircraft components and other small-volume applications such as artificial human joints and posts in teeth. The oxide’s good colour strength in paints means that relatively low quantities can be used in pale colours such as magnolia and grey, where iron oxides and carbon black will contribute to the opacity.
Titanium compounds also play major roles in catalytic processes. Nanoparticle TiO2 when exposed to UV light, reacts with water to generate protons which will decompose any organic material they contact. Such particles can be sintered into the surface of glass, making it self-cleaning. There are limitations with incorporating them into paints because they destroy the organic binders, but silicone binders may emerge in future which it will be possible to use. Polypropylene was first discovered in the lab thanks to someone investigating Ziegler-Natta catalysts, based on mixed oxidation state compounds of titanium with chlorine, and finding a strange white material in reaction products. Ziegler-Natta catalysts have been used for this application ever since.
For all the diversity and importance of the applications of titanium and its compounds, the most striking use of titanium metal is at the Guggenheim art museum in Bilbao, which is covered in glittering plates of titanium metal – clean, beautiful and strong.