Many people have never heard of molybdenum, an element that sits in the middle of the periodic table, with 42 protons, 54 neutrons and the symbol Mo; however, it is in very high demand. Discovered in 1778 by Carl Scheele, it is a silvery-white metal and it features a number of notable properties. For example, molybdenum has one of the highest melting points of all pure elements – hitting 2620°C – and it demonstrates high thermal and electrical conductivity. It is also extremely tough yet ductile and it is very resistant to corrosion from glass and other metals.
The first-ever molybdenum application occurred in the early 20th century when, thanks to its stability and strength at high temperatures, it was used to create wires for incandescent lamps. Since this first application, scientists and engineers have realised that molybdenum’s wide range of remarkable properties makes it an ideal choice for a wide range of other applications. It is now employed in a variety of different industries, both in its pure form or as an alloy or compound, and here we take a look at each of the top five modern-day molybdenum uses in further detail.
Five Modern-Day Uses of Molybdenum
This has to be one of the element’s biggest applications, accounting for the largest percentage of its demand and usage. Molybdenum is a highly valuable alloying agent in a variety of structural, high-speed, and stainless steels. Not only does it contribute to their toughness and durability, but it also improves their resistance to corrosion and their ability to be welded into an appropriate shape.
For example, thanks to the addition of molybdenum, stainless steel demonstrates excellent anti-corrosive and rust-resistant properties – thus making it suitable for use in kitchen appliances and common household items, industrial steel pipes and underwater oil and gas pipelines. The addition of molybdenum also significantly improves the strength-to-weight ratio of steel and it is often used to increase the strength, hardness, temperature and pressure tolerance of cast iron, therefore making it suitable for use in the automotive industry.
Compounds that include molybdenum are often used within the chemical industry, either as an effective catalyst or lubricant. Take for example molybdenum sulphide; a compound that is typically employed as a catalyst in the hydro-fertilisation of petroleum. When combined with heat and pressure, this compound successfully removes sulphur from the natural gas and refined petroleum products. Molybdenum compounds can also be used as an effective lubricant, particularly in situations where high temperatures would cause oil-based lubricants to decompose, and it is also used as pigments for plastics, corrosion inhibitors, ceramics, and smoke suppressants.
It goes without saying that when flying a plane, it is vitally important that a pilot has full visibility at all times – regardless of the weather conditions at 35,000 ft, they need to keep passengers. This is where molybdenum comes into play. An electrical current is sent through a molybdenum wire, thus heating up the material, transferring the heat to the windshield and acting as a defrost mechanism. Due to its creep resistance and low coefficient thermal expansion, the molybdenum wire maintains its shape and withstands the high temperatures. The windscreen remains clear at all times and the pilot is able to fly the plane safely and successfully to its destination.
As one of their main trace elements, molybdenum is essential to the normal growth and health of plants. It helps to convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, promotes the absorption of phosphorous, accelerates the formation and transformation of alcohol and generally improves a plant’s resistance to drought, cold, and disease. With these benefits in mind, most countries now produce and use plant fertilisers that include trace amounts of molybdenum powder.
Molybdenum components also have an incredibly important role to play within the medical field. For example, technetium-99m is commonly used in radionuclide medical imaging – such as high-power x-rays and computerised axial tomography (CAT) scanning equipment. This particular isotope is a derivative of molybdenum-98, produced when molybdenum-98 absorbs neutrons.
Here we have highlighted some of the most common modern-day uses of molybdenum, however, others include lighting, sintering trays and boats, charge carriers, plasma spraying nozzles and electrodes, sputtering targets, furnace components, and glass stirrers – to name just a few. Thanks to its remarkable properties, the applications of molybdenum are already very far-reaching, and we predict that – over the next few years – scientists and engineers will continue to find new uses for this versatile and intriguing pure element.
Molybdenum: Available at Special Metals
Special Metals Fabrication demonstrate over 120 years’ experience in the specialist metals industry and you could say we know a thing or two when it comes to molybdenum. Call upon our wealth of experience and expert knowledge in this area and, we guarantee, we will find the perfect molybdenum product to meet your exact requirements. From molybdenum wire and rod to molybdenum plates and sheets, we have it all. We offer a range of pre-manufactured goods and we can also make bespoke molybdenum parts to specification. The choice is yours.
So why not take a look at our full range of molybdenum parts and fittings today, and if you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch. Give us a call on 01268 820409 or drop a message using our online contact form. One of our friendly members of staff will be more than happy to help!