Molybdenum is a silver-grey metal that does not occur naturally in a pure state. It is normally found as a constituent of other elements in sulphur-bearing ores in which copper is also present and can for example be extracted as a by-product of copper mining.

Molybdenum is an element with the chemical symbol Mo and atomic number 42 in the periodic table. It melts at a temperature of 2,610°C. Its name is derived from the Greek word molybdos which means similar to lead, a clear reference to its colour. Although molybdenum was discovered as early as the 18th century, it was not used in the production of steel alloys until the first world war, an application of the metal which resulted in its becoming widely known. Molybdenum was processed instead of tungsten, which was in short supply at that time, and this marked the start of the use of the metal on a commercial scale. Its key properties are durability and strength as well as resistance to corrosion and high temperatures.

Molybdenum is a metal that is used as an additive in the production of special alloys, an application that produces extremely hardwearing steels. About two thirds of the molybdenum produced are used in the production of stainless steels with a Mo content of up to 6%. Steel alloys containing molybdenum which can withstand very high temperatures and are extremely strong are used in complex components in the aerospace and automotive industries.  

Components for X-ray tubes and electrodes for glass furnaces are also manufactured from this metal.

Another field of application for molybdenum is in the manufacture of nickel-based super alloys. Molybdenum is contained in catalysts that assist in reducing sulphur content in the oil industry. Molybdenum can also be found in lubricants that are used in a range of industrial processes. This is because molybdenum disulphide is resistant to high temperatures and reduces friction, thereby reducing the wear on engine parts. It is also used in the manufacture of thin films and solvents, as a pigment for plastics, dyes and rubber compounds in the chemical industry and as an electrical conductor in the electronics industry.

Because of its wide range of applications molybdenum is regarded as a strategic metal in the aerospace and automotive industry and in the manufacture of medical instruments, light bulbs and flat screens, as well as in water treatment systems and even in the generation of laser beams.

 

 


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