Molybdenum (Mo) is a tough, ductile metal that is characterized by its moderate hardness, high resistance to corrosion, and high thermal conductivity. Today, Molybdenum is used in products like LED lighting, vacuum furnaces, clean energy, and aircraft. In the late 1700s, Molybdenum was recognized as an official element, and has been used over the past 200 years for a variety of applications. But how did we get to the Molybdenum manufacturing process that a Molybdenum manufacturer uses today? This article takes a look at some of the important discoveries throughout time that involved the use of Molybdenum.
Ancient Times: The ancient Greeks had a number of substances that were called “molybdos,” meaning lead-like. Molybdenite was the most abundant Molybdenum-containing material and was classified with lead, graphite, and others. Molybdenite was used for a variety of products, like in a 14th century Japanese sword, as an alloying element.
1768: Carl Wilhelm Scheele, a Swedish scientist, determined that Molybdenite was a sulfide compound of an unidentified element. This discovery was made by decomposing Molybdenite in hot nitric acid and heating the product to create a white oxide powder.
1782: Peter Jacob Hjelm, at Scheele’s suggestion, chemically reduced the oxide with carbon, obtaining the metal powder known as “Molybdenum.” The extraction of commercial quantities because practical in the late 19th century. Experiments showed that Molybdenum could replace tungsten in steel alloys — which was a massive discovery, seeing as how Molybdenum is significantly lighter than tungsten.
1918: The massive Climax deposit in Colorado was created due to the increase in Molybdenum demand. The use of alloy steels during the World War I caused an increase in tungsten demand. Once the tungsten supply was strained, Molybdenum became a popular substitution.
1930s: After the war, groundbreaking research was done to discover civilian applications for Molybdenum. Researchers determined temperature ranges to forge and heat-treat Molybdenum-bearing steels. This discovery opened large markets to Molybdenum. Molybdenum was understood as an alloying element to steels and other materials.
1945: After World War II had ended, increased research development began once again, providing additional markets for a Molybdenum manufacturer. Molybdenum-bearing alloys were used in automobile manufacturing, stainless steels, aviation, missiles, and other industries.
Today, while steels and cast iron still make up the biggest market segment, Molybdenum has been found to be instrumental in super alloys, chemicals, catalysts, lubricants, nickel base alloys, electronics, as well as many other implementations.