For many of us, titanium connotes a high quality metal that’s used to make NASA spacecraft and other advanced technologies. We get a clue from just the name alone, as it calls to mind the Titans, the formidable giants who preceded the gods of Olympus.
It is well-named, as the strength of this metal is amazing. It’s 45% lighter than steel, yet it’s just as strong. It’s twice as strong as aluminum, but it’s only 60% heavier. It resists corrosion in sea water. It is resistant to high temperatures, as its melting point is 3,034.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1,668 degrees Celsius). It even resists abrasion, cavitation, and erosion even at high-flow velocities. It’s even biocompatible.
The problem with this metal is that it’s expensive despite the fact that it’s the 7th most abundant metal and the 9th most abundant element overall. Just about every piece of igneous rock contains it, but it’s not easy to extract. In fact, it was discovered in 1791, yet it was 119 years later in 1910 when Matthew Hunter of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was able to produce the pure metal. And another 20 years had to pass before William Kroll was able to come up with a process that enabled large scale production. The Kroll process is still used today for commercial production.
Below is the historical Titanium price per metric ton.
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Price History of Titanium
There are two ways to figure out the price of this metal. Most of the titanium ore (95% to be exact) is used to create titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is a white pigment used as an additive or coating. So, one way of determining the price of the metal is to check out how much TiO2 costs. For 2016, Chemours, the largest TiO2 producer in the world, raised their pigment price to $150 per metric ton. And other producers have followed suit.
Then there’s the metal itself. While like other commodities it is subject to price movements, when adjusted for inflation the price has generally tended downwards. As of January 2016, the price is $3,750 per metric ton. The price in 2005 was $21,000 per ton.
Titanium as Investment
The best way to invest in titanium is to buy and trade stocks in companies that either mine the metal or use it to produce their products. This list will also include the companies that produce TiO2. Holding on to these shares means that you anticipate greater demand from the industries like aeronautics for products made from this metal.
It’s also possible for you to buy shares in exchange-traded funds. All ETFs that deal with titanium also deal in other metals like gold or copper, so the value of these shares will not match the price of titanium alone.
Purposes Used For
Despite the fame of titanium metal and alloys, the metal is mostly used for titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment. It’s intensely white and very opaque, and as such about 80% of TiO2 consumption is for paints, varnishes, paper, and plastics. It’s also used in glazes, enamels, inks, fibers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even food. Most toothpaste brands contain TiO2.
Because it’s highly refractive and resistant to UV, it’s used as paint and as coating for plastics because it resists discoloration. This resistance to UV rays also makes it a common ingredient for sunscreens.
And because they add strength to materials like graphite, they’re also used for high quality sports equipment. Some golf clubs and fishing rods are coated with TiO2.
Then there are the alloys, which contain other metals like aluminum, steel and stainless steel. These alloys have high resistance to corrosion, fatigue, cracking, and high temperatures. These attributes make them ideal for high-stress military applications, including aircraft, naval ships, missiles, and spacecraft.
They’re used for critical components, such as the landing gear, hydraulic systems, and exhaust ducts of helicopters. They’re found in the propeller shafts of ships because they’re resistant to corrosion in salt water, and that’s the same reason they’re used for salt water aquariums, fishing lines, and even knives for divers. Some submarines are even made with this alloy.
These alloys also have extensive use in industrial environments. They’re used for pipes and for process equipment because of their ability to withstand corrosive substances.
The automotive industry also makes use of these alloys, because they offer strength without the weight penalty that can reduce fuel efficiency and speed. Since the metal is expensive, it’s only used for the high-end and high-performance models. The metal can be found in the exhausts and in the intake valves.
Even some athletic equipment uses these alloys. Aside from golf clubs, you have tennis rackets, and sticks for hockey, cricket, and lacrosse. Racing bikes also use these alloys for their frames.
It’s also used for jewelry, especially for those who are allergic to metals or who wear their jewelry in places like swimming pools. These are also used for watch cases, because they’re durable, resistant to denting and corrosion, and very light.
Finally, it’s used for dental and biomedical implants. It’s the most biocompatible metal of them all. It doesn’t react nor does it corrode when in contact with body fluids.
As an investment, titanium is associated with high-end technology. In other words, as the world advances, so does the demand for this high-tech metal.