Mineral Resource of the Month: Titanium

Dark layers in these heavy mineral sands in South Carolina are composed mainly of rutile and ilmenite. Credit: USGS. Dark layers in these heavy mineral sands in South Carolina are composed mainly of rutile and ilmenite. Credit: USGS.

by George M. Bedinger, USGS mineral commodity specialist

Production

Geologic Occurrence

Titanium is the ninth-most abundant element in Earth’s crust and is found in nearly all rocks and sediments, although it is not found as a pure metal in nature. It has a strong affinity for oxygen, typically forming oxide minerals — the most important being ilmenite and rutile. Processing of ilmenite and rutile in shoreline (beach) and fluvial (river and stream) heavy mineral sand deposits — found along many continental margins — provides most of the world’s titanium supply. Most of the remaining supply comes from two large hard rock deposits that contain ilmenite.


World Production, Titanium Mineral Concentrates

Credit: K. Cantner, AGI. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.


World Production

Credit: K. Cantner, AGI. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.

Consumption

U.S. Consumption, TiO2 Pigments and Metal

Credit: K. Cantner, AGI. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.


U.S. Imports

Credit: K. Cantner, AGI. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.


  Titanium sponge metal formed by the Kroll process, the first metallic stage in the titanium metal fabrication process. Credit: George Bedinger. Titanium sponge metal formed by the Kroll process, the first metallic stage in the titanium metal fabrication process. Credit: George Bedinger.

Commercial Usage

  • About 90 percent of the world’s annual production of titanium minerals is refined into titanium pigments; 5 percent is made into metal; and the remainder is used in the chemical and welding industries.
  • Owing to their high refractive index, titanium dioxide pigments impart whiteness, opacity and brightness to paints, paper, rubber and plastics. Titanium metal’s high strength-to-weight ratio and resistance to corrosion make it valuable in aerospace, consumer, industrial and medical applications.

Fun Facts

  • Star sapphires and rubies owe their asterism (starlike rays of light observed when some minerals are viewed from certain directions) to inclusions of rutile within their crystalline structure.

  • Titanium’s resistance to corrosion results from a thin protective oxide layer that the metal forms instantly upon contact with oxygen. The naturally formed layer imparts a metallic gray color, but heat or electrochemical treatments can influence the thickness of the oxide layer, resulting in different colors.

 

Visit minerals.usgs.gov/minerals for more information

 

Credit: United States Geological Survey. Credit: United States Geological Survey.

Credit: The American Geosciences Institute. Credit: The American Geosciences Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, February 5, 2018 - 06:00

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