Sunday, September 08, 2013

Countdown to Opening Night by the Elements: Number 22

The new week starts with Fearless taking a look at a new element, this one being number 22 in the periodic table…


So there he was.  William Gregor, taking a break from tending his flock as a clergyman in Cornwall, took advantage of a nice day in 1791 to indulge his hobby of geology.  He was walking along a stream in a nearby parish and came upon a deposit of black sand.  And (you can’t really make this up), he had a magnet and thought, “what the heck?” and tested the sand with it.  Lo and behold, the sand was attracted by the magnet.  He took some back to his church/geology lab and produced from it two different oxides.  One was iron oxide, which he knew about.  The other was a white metallic oxide with which he was not familiar.  That was as far as Gregor would get though.

Meanwhile, over in Austria, Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein, was discovering the same thing at about the same time.  He did not know what he had, either.  It was up to a Prussian chemist -- Martin Heinrich Klaproth – to discover four years later just what the other two missed.  What he had was a new element that he named.  And he was not about to mess around.  He named it for the Greek gods that were descendants of the earth and sky, immortals of unimaginable strength and endurance.  He named it “Titanium” for the Titans.

Titanium is well-named.  It is universal, being present in meteorites, the sun, and in lunar rocks, in addition to its presence on earth.  It is a low density metal, but one of high strength.  It is extremely resistant to corrosion.  It is resistant to acids, chlorine gas and chloride solutions. It is resistant to high temperatures. 

It does not have a natural role in human physiology, but its qualities make titanium uniquely suited to high-performance applications in manufacturing: propeller shafts and boat hulls (it was used in the manufacture of submarines, for example), airframes and engines, missiles, and spacecraft.  It has medical applications, such as in prostheses and orthopedic implants, and dental instruments and implants.  It is used in automotive production where light-weight, high-strength materials are important.  It shows up in sporting equipment (even hockey, in face masks).  It even has promise as a critical element in long-term nuclear waste storage.

Titanium…a durable, high-strength metal used in high-performance, critical applications that is resistant to stress, temperature, corrosion.  Sounds like a defenseman who is durable, eats up critical minutes, performs well in stressful situations (like tournaments or playoffs), who can be relied upon in a variety of situations.

Titanium…the “John Carlson” of elements of the periodic table.

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