Molybdenum Uses & Applications
Although electrical lighting has existed in one form or another since 1802, it was not until 1906, over a century later, that the General Electric company began introducing refractory metal components into the modern day electric light bulb. The coupling of molybdenum wire and tungsten filaments made for a winning combination due their unique properties. As electricity passes through the various internal components, the incandescent light bulb heats up. At high temperatures, most materials begin to expand or melt. Because of molybdenum’s chemical profile, the wire maintains its composure without any expansion, and successfully supports the primary tungsten filament while the light is turned on and the energy is flowing.
While piloting an aircraft, it is a necessity for the plane’s pilots to have proper visibility to ensure the safety of all passengers onboard, no matter the weather conditions. Molybdenum wire makes another appearance due to its resistance to material creep and expansion under high temperature conditions. A current of electricity is sent through the moly wire to heat up the material, causing the wire to transfer the heat to the wind shield and act as a defrosting mechanism. Thanks to the low coefficient of thermal expansion, the wire maintains its shape and safely enables millions of commercial and non-commercial flights per year.
The excellent properties of molybdenum are often utilized in conjunction with other materials, especially in the automotive industry. Moly is typically combined with steel to create alloys that are much stronger and exhibit increased resistance to corrosion. One such example in the auto industry is the chrome-moly steel alloy, which is a combination of chromium, molybdenum, and other trace elements. The moly alloy is used in the vehicle’s clutch and flywheel, among other parts, due to the superb strength to weight ratio, making the alloy a vital piece of automobile’s inner workings while increasing fuel economy on account of the relatively low weight.
The popular material widely known as stainless steel is named as such due to having excellent anti-corrosive properties. While most consumers know its coveted properties in relation to kitchen appliances, there are many other products in the world that benefit from the addition of molybdenum into stainless steel. Industrial steel pipes and tubing that maintain the health and sanitary integrity of the public water supply benefit from moly’s rust-resistant properties. Underwater oil and gas pipelines contain stainless steel to shield against the corrosive nature of the seawater while reducing the risk of contaminants in the fuel supply. Finally, many popular consumer products are the result of molybdenum stainless steel alloys, such as Swiss Army Knives and many other common household items.
Vacuum furnaces are dedicated, airless environments in an industrial setting where temperature can reach 1100-1500 degrees Celsius (2000-2800 degrees Fahrenheit) for the purpose of bonding different materials, among other manufacturing processes. Steel alloys are often heat treated under such conditions to improve hardness. The furnaces are primarily constructed out of refractory metals, namely tungsten and molybdenum plates, due to their extremely high melting points. While other materials expand and begin to melt and subsequently mold together under the intense heat treatment, the molybdenum plating holds steady as a protective heat shield and maintains its form on account of its valuable chemical profile.