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Titanium Corrosion

Titanium is the fourth most abundant metallic element in the earth's crust. It occurs chiefly as an oxide ore. The commercially important forms are rutile (titanium dioxide) and ilmeite (titanium-iron oxide), the former being richest in titanium content. Metallic titanium was first isolated in impure form in 1887 and with higher purity in 1910. However, it was not until the 1950's that it began to come into use as a structural material. This was initially stimulated by aircraft applications. A modern and comprehensive document on the subject is the second edition of the classic CORROSION BASICS textbook.

Although the aerospace industry still provides the major market, titanium and titanium alloys are finding increasingly widespread use in other industries due to their many desirable properties. Titanium is a unique material, as strong as steel with less than 60% of its density but with excellent corrosion resistance. Traditional applications are in the aerospace and chemical industries. More recently, especially as the cost of titanium has fallen significantly, the alloys are finding greater use in other industry sectors, such as offshore.

Titanium is a very reactive metal that shows remarkable corrosion resistance in oxidizing acid environments by virtue of a passive oxide film. Following its commercial introduction in the 1950's, titanium has become an established corrosion resistant material. In the chemical industry, the grade most used is commercial-purity titanium. Like stainless steels, it is dependent upon an oxide film for its corrosion resistance. Therefore, it performs best in oxidizing media such as hot nitric acid. The oxide film formed on titanium is more protective than that on stainless steel, and it often performs well in media that cause pitting and crevice corrosion in the latter (e.g., seawater, wet chlorine, organic chlorides). While titanium is resistant to these media, it is not immune and can be susceptible to pitting and crevice attack at elevated temperatures. It is, for example, not immune to seawater corrosion if the temperature is greater than about 110oC.