Rights: The University of Waikato Published 17 September 2009 Download

In this video, Professor Deliang Zhang and Dr Brian Gabbitas, from the University of Waikato, talk about the special properties of titanium metal that make it increasingly useful in our modern world.

It is an expensive metal to produce, and Professor Zhang’s research has enabled him to develop an alternative process that could result in cheaper manufacture of titanium-based components.

Point of interest
What are the physical properties that characterise metals?


There are several things that are special about titanium. At the moment, its use is largely restricted to high-value applications, so applications where the particular properties of titanium, such as good high-temperature characteristics, make it the suitable choice and where cost is not an issue – where performance is the over-riding factor.

Titanium metal is a very durable metal for engineering applications because this metal is corrosion-resistant and also this metal is very strong and very light. It is 40% lighter than steel but as strong as high-strength steel.

So titanium finds applications in things like aerospace. Titanium is used in dentistry for a lot of orthodontic surgery these days. Of course for a number of years now, it has been used in biomedical applications for connecting bones, for hip replacement joints and so on.

The Kroll extraction process for titanium makes the cost of titanium very expensive, it’s a high cost process, and it is still the process which is used for making most of the world’s titanium. There are lots of laboratories around the world that are trying to produce titanium economically, and the process was developed by my colleague Professor Deliang Zhang – this was developed in 2001. He just used a different method for splitting off the oxygen in the titanium dioxide, and he used a completely different process but the resulting material is a titanium alloy powder.

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