10 Interesting and Helpful Titanium Facts

It is found in items ranging from sunscreen to surgical implants

A worker holding crushed titanium

Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

Titanium is found in surgical implants, sunscreen, aircraft, and eyeglass frames. Here are 10 titanium facts you might find interesting and helpful:

  1. Titanium is named for the Titans of mythology. In Greek mythology, the Titans were the gods of Earth. The ruler of the Titans, Cronus, was overthrown by the younger gods, led by his son, Zeus, ruler of the Olympian gods.
  2. The original name for titanium was manaccanite. The metal was discovered in 1791 by William Gregor, a pastor in a village in South Cornwall of the United Kingdom called Manaccan. Gregor reported his finding to the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall and published it in the German science journal Crell's Annalen. Usually, the discoverer of an element names it, so what happened? In 1795, German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth independently discovered the metal and named it titanium, for the Greek Titans. Klaproth learned about Gregor's earlier discovery and confirmed the two elements were one and the same. He credited Gregor with the element's discovery. However, the metal was not isolated in pure form until 1910, by metallurgist Matthew Hunter of Schenectady, New York, who went with the name titanium for the element.
  3. Titanium is abundant, the ninth most abundant element in the Earth's crust. It occurs naturally in the human body, in plants, in seawater, on the Moon, in meteors, and in the Sun and other stars. The element is only found bonded with other elements, not free in nature in its pure state. Most titanium on Earth is found in igneous (volcanic) rocks. Nearly every igneous rock contains titanium.
  4. Although titanium is used in many products, nearly 95% of the metal that is purified is used to make titanium dioxide, TiO2. Titanium dioxide is a white pigment used in paint, sunscreen, cosmetics, paper, toothpaste, and many other products.
  5. One of titanium's characteristics is extremely high strength to weight ratio. Although it is 60% denser than aluminum, it is more than twice as strong. Its strength is comparable to that of steel, but titanium is 45% lighter.
  6. Another notable characteristic of titanium is its high corrosion resistance. The resistance is so high that it is estimated titanium would only corrode to the thickness of a sheet of paper after 4,000 years in seawater!
  7. Titanium is used in medical implants and for jewelry because it is considered non-toxic and nonreactive. However, titanium actually is reactive and fine titanium shavings or dust is a fire hazard. The nonreactivity is associated with the passivation of titanium, which is where the metal forms an oxide layer on its outer surface, so the titanium doesn't continue to react or degrade. Titanium can osseointegrate, meaning bone can grow into an implant. This makes the implant much stronger than it would be otherwise.
  8. Titanium containers may have application for the long-term storage of nuclear waste. Because of high corrosion resistance, titanium containers may last up to 100,000 years.
  9. Some 24k gold isn't actually pure gold, but rather, an alloy of gold and titanium. The 1% titanium is not enough to change the karat of the gold, yet it produces a metal that is much more durable than pure gold.
  10. Titanium is a transition metal. It has some properties commonly seen in other metals, such as high strength and melting point (3,034 degrees F or 1,668 degrees C). Unlike most other metals, it is not a particularly good conductor of heat or electricity and is not very dense. Titanium is nonmagnetic.