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Dec 26

The Uses Of Titanium In Aerospace Engineering

When British clergyman and mineralogist William Gregor stumbled upon titanium in Cornwall, United Kingdom in 1791, he was probably unaware of the implications of his unique discovery. Little did he know that this unknown metal – later named after the Titans of Greek mythology – would be his legacy. Gregor died of tuberculosis on June 11, 1817 but his discovery is still with us. Today, titanium is called a space-age metal due to its numerous uses. Chief among these is the metal’s use in aerospace engineering.

What makes titanium an attractive engineering material in the aerospace industry? The answer lies in titanium’s unique properties. This metal has a high strength to weight ratio, meaning it is strong as some steels but 45 percent lighter. When alloyed or combined with iron, vanadium, molybdenum and other elements, titanium can create strong, lightweight materials for jet engines and spacecraft.

Because it is corrosion-resistant and can be used at high temperatures without creeping or becoming deformed, titanium is commonly utilized in aircraft, armor plating, ships and missiles. Titanium alloys likewise make up various components such as structural parts, fire walls, landing gear, exhaust ducts, and hydraulic systems.

About two-thirds of all titanium produced can be found in aircraft engines and frames. One good example is the Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird,” an advanced, long range reconnaissance aircraft that first appeared in 1966. Made by aircraft engineer Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson, the Blackbird was so fast it could outrace threats and it served the U.S. Air Force up to 1998.

The Boeing 777 or “Triple Seven” is another aircraft that carries 5.9 metric tons or 130,000 pounds of titanium. Made by Boeing Commercial Airlines, the Triple Seven is the world’s largest twinjet and has room for over 300 passengers. Other aircraft with titanium are the Boeing 747 (45 metric tons), the Boeing 737 (18 metric tons), the Airbus A340 (32 metric tons), and the Airbus A330 (18 metric tons). In engine systems, titanium is used in rotors, compressor blades, and hydraulic system components, among others. Indeed, Gregor is no longer with us but his legacy lives on.

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