Architectural Titanium

The discovery of titanium is credited to Rev. W. Gregor of England who isolated its oxide from black magnetic sand found in Cornwall, South England in 1790. A German chemist, M.H. Klaproth, confirmed that rutile ore consisted of the same oxide in 1795, and designated this new element as titanium, borrowing the name from Greek mythology.

In 1910, an American chemist, M.A. Hunter, succeeded in isolating titanium metal from titanium tetrachloride by reducing it with sodium, and titanium metal came into existence. However, industrial use of titanium came much later. It wasn’t until 1946 that W.J. Kroll, a chemist from Luxembourg, established the process of reducing titanium tetrachloride with magnesium into sponge form.

Titanium is the ninth most abundant element among those forming the earth’s crust and is in the fourth place as an industrial metal, after iron, aluminum and magnesium.

Many titanium alloys have been developed for aerospace applications where mechanical properties are the primary consideration. In industrial applications, corrosion resistance is the most important property. For architectural applications, aesthetics and corrosion resistance are the leading considerations. Commercially pure (Grade 1 and Grade 2) titanium alloys are most commonly used for architectural applications.

Although this “high-tech” metal appears to be relatively new in western architectural applications, it has been used on hundreds of buildings in Japan for over twenty-five years and has excelled in resisting corrosion in the most heavily polluted, urban and coastal locations.

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