The uses of molybdenum

Molybdenum is a silver-grey metal that does not occur naturally as a pure metal. It is usually found as a constituent of other elements in sulphurous ores which also contain copper. One of the ways in which the metal can be obtained is as a by-product in copper mining.

Molybdenum is listed in the Periodic System of Elements with the atomic number 42 and the symbol “Mo”. It melts at a temperature of 2610°C. The name is derived from the Greek "molybdos", meaning lead-like, a clear reference to its colour. Although the existence of molybdenum was known already in the 18th century, it was not used in the production of steel alloys until the First World War. This application of the metal led to its becoming widely known. Tungsten, which was in short supply at that time, was replaced by molybdenum and this resulted in the commercial scale of molybdenum processing. The key properties of molybdenum are its durability and strength as well as its resistance to corrosion and high temperatures.

Molybdenum is used as an additive to produce special alloys. Very hard-wearing steels are produced in this way. About two thirds of this metal is processed to produce stainless steels containing up to 6 % Mo. Steel alloys containing molybdenum with excellent temperature and strength properties are applied in sophisticated components for aircrafts and in the automotive industry. Components for X-ray tubes and electrodes for glass furnaces are also made from molybdenum.

Molybdenum is used in the production of nickel-based superalloys. Catalysts which are non-substitutable in the oil industry helping to reduce the sulphur impurity level contain molybdenum. It is added to lubricants finding their application in various industrial processes. Molybdenum disulphide is resistant to high temperatures and reduces friction and thus wears on engine components. Another way in which pure molybdenum shows its outstanding properties is in the production of thin films and solvents, as pigments for plastics, dyes and rubber compounds in the chemical industry and as an electrical conductor in the electronic industry.

Because of the many applications, molybdenum is regarded as a strategic metal in the aerospace and automotive industry and in the manufacture of medical instruments, filament bulbs and flat screen displays, as well as in water treatment and even in the generation of laser beams.



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