Molybdenum is a silvery-gray metal with one of the highest melting points of any natural element. Molybdenum is a chemical element with the atomic number 42 and is represented by the chemical symbol Mo. This metal is never found in its free form on Earth, but can be found in various minerals. The most important commercial source of this element is the mineral molybdenite. It can be mined directly or as a byproduct of tungsten or copper mining. The rate of production is about 250,000 metric tons a year and the largest producers are China, the United States, Chile and Peru. Molybdenum is mined for the wide variety of applications and production has more than doubled since the turn of the century. Let’s take a look at the current commercial applications of molybdenum.
Uses of Molybdenum
The most common application for molybdenum is in the production of metal alloys. The fact that this metal is able to withstand high temperatures, is corrosion resistant and improves weldability (without any adverse effects) makes it useful for many alloys. It is commonly used in alloys for structural steel, stainless steel, high-speed steel and superalloys. The ability to withstand heat makes it perfect for the manufacture of armor, aircraft parts, industrial motors, high-speed tools and electrical contacts.
The pure metal makes up just 6% of all worldwide use of this element. It is used as fertilizer for certain plants as well as pollution analyzers in power plants. It can also be used as a replacement for tungsten anodes in x-ray sources. A radioactive isotope 99Mo is used to generate 99mtechnetium, which is an important isotope for medical imaging.
Molybdenum compounds make up about 14% of the global use for this element. Molybdenum disulfide is used as a lubricant, antiwear agent and a catalyst in the petroleum refining process. Molybdenum disilicide is used in heating elements, which can operate at very high temperatures. Other compounds of molybdenum are used for adhesives, pigments, biological staining and solar cell production.
Did you know?
Molybdenum is also an essential trace element in the human body. It is thought to help prevent tooth decay and may prevent a certain type of esophageal cancer!