Cycle World

TITANIUM

Source: The color of money! Titanium is more widely available today than in years past, but it remains an expensive, exotic material. We pay because its strength-toweight ratio is highly favorable.

Metals are a river that flows through our history. Bronze Age horsemen from Asia’s steppe brought the mysterious stuff to the near-eastern “Cradles of Civilization.” Gold and silver drove Spanish New World exploration and conquest. And now titanium’s use in aerospace and racing has made that element synonymous with the highest performance.

Titanium, sought for its combination of high strength, low weight, and extraordinary corrosion and fatigue resistance, became available in commercial quantities only after 1953. Although common in the earth’s crust, titanium is difficult (read: expensive) to extract from its ore. It was therefore the rivalries of the Cold War that bankrolled itsmassive producers, making entire lightweight submarines of the stuff. Aerospace-grade titanium currently sells for $20 to $25 a pound, and 15 percent of the empty weight of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is titanium.

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