7 Things You Didn’t Know About Titanium | GCN Tech Does Science
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7 Things You Didn’t Know About Titanium | GCN Tech Does Science

October 19, 2019

(collisions reverberating) – We’ve looked at the myths
surrounding carbon fiber. We’ve lifted the lid on aluminum. We’ve investigated whether
steel is in fact real; it was. But, there is still a big gap in the GCN Material Sciences Course. And that, is titanium. For a while, in the early ’90s, titanium was going to
be the next big thing. And to be fair, it briefly was, but little by little it became
eclipsed by carbon fiber. Nevertheless though, it still has a legion of super loyal
fans, and quite right too. So if you’re not onboard
the titanium train yet, or perhaps more accurately,
military aircraft or submarine, what do you need to know? (relaxed chill music) Despite having the reputation
that it’s the preserve of the Russian or American military, which to be fair, it kind of was, titanium is actually the
ninth most common element in the earth’s crust. And as well as using it to make bikes, you can also find it
in sun cream and paper, to make it whiter. Clearly though, what makes paper white doesn’t really help very much
when you’re making bikes, other than perhaps drawing
up your initial ideas, and that is because it’s titanium oxide that’s used in paper, whereas
when we’re making bikes we need a titanium alloy. The very first titanium
bikes were actually though made out of pure titanium,
but they were very flexible and they weren’t very much good. And it wasn’t until a
titanium alloy called 3AL/2.5V that that changed, having blended in 3% aluminum and 2.5% vanadium. The other common titanium
alloy for bikes is 6AL/4V. Both have a very high
Young’s modulus, which is a measure of the
stiffness of the material, so they have a gPA of about 110 as opposed to, let’s say 6061 aluminum, which has a GPa about about 69. And they also have a much
higher yield strength, so that is the point at which a material stops returning to its original position when a stress is removed. So six-four titanium has an MPa of 1000, whereas again 6061 aluminum
has an MPa of just 270. And what that means is that the material won’t deform or bend or buckle in a crash. Three two-five actually
has a lower yield strength than six-four titanium, but
then that’s one of the reasons why it is used almost
exclusively in bike-building, because six-four titanium is
incredibly hard to work with. It’s more brittle and less ductile, so forming it into simple shapes, like, I don’t know, tubes for a start, is incredibly hard. And actually most six-four titanium tubes are rolled from sheet
metal and then welded, whereas three-2.5 tends to be seamless. And so that actually gives a
more consistent overall tube, and therefore is better from
a quality control perspective. So in other words,
basically, although on paper the material properties
of six-four titanium might look better, it won’t
necessarily yield a better bike. Titanium is renowned as being
super light, but in fact, as a material, it’s actually
60% denser than aluminum. However, given what we’ve just heard about the other material properties, you can still see why titanium frames tend to come out slightly
lighter than aluminum ones. So, the best examples of each would be about 1000 grams for a titanium frame and about 1100 grams for aluminum. So, 100 grams in it. And the reason that difference
is actually still quite small is probably down to a measure
of just how much easier it is to work and manipulate aluminum, and we we’ll come on to
that a little bit later on. And we also have to bear in mind that super light titanium frames will also have exceedingly
thin-walled tubing as a result of that extra density. And then when we compare it to steel, titanium is as strong but 45% less dense. And so that explains why titanium frames are significantly lighter than steel. That toughness in terms
of material properties does make titanium very
difficult to work with, as we’ve already touched on. Fortunately though,
much of that difficulty is actually dealt with by the
tube manufacturers themselves. One of those things is that
internally butted tubes can’t be made safely from titanium. Basically the danger is that
titanium can be overworked, and then that would lead to
a weakness in the material. Now on the flip side, what you can do is externally butt the tubing, so instead of a mandrel
working away inside the tube, titanium is shaved off from the outside. However that does rely heavily on the straightness of the
tubing in the first place, because any imperfections in that would also then be reflected
in the wall thicknesses. So, that’s probably why this
bike behind me (taps frame) is made out of straight
gauge titanium tubing. Titanium is also a little
bit trickier to weld than steel or aluminum, and that’s because it’s reactive to oxygen
at higher temperatures, meaning that when it is welded, it needs to be done in
an absence of that gas. Now to be fair, all metals need to be welded in an inert gas environment, but titanium is particularly sensitive. So to put it in context,
if you’re welding steel an acceptable purge, so called, needs to be about 1000
parts of oxygen per million, whereas with titanium, it’s
just 10 parts per million. So that is a little bit
of challenge to a welder, and if any oxygen does get into the weld, then the titanium oxidizes. Which, if you remember
from earlier in the video, is a very white, almost
worthless white powder. The technique then is to weld
in an inert argon atmosphere, so basically you pipe
argon gas into the tubes, and then externally to the weld as well, but then that ensures that
it’s all nice and strong. The last thing that can
make titanium a bit tricky is working. So you see, we mentioned earlier that aluminum can be
engineered and manipulated into all sorts of complicated shapes, but with titanium, even bending a simple S-bend chainstay, for example, extreme care has to be taken
you don’t overwork the material which can then lead to it becoming brittle and therefore weak. In order to avoid that, the
titanium needs to be annealed, which is where you heat it up and then you allow it to cool
down slowly in between each incremental step of the process. It’s quite time consuming,
labor intensive, and it’s another reason why titanium bikes tend to be quite expensive. Is it expensive though? Well, yes compared to aluminum bikes. But it’s probably on a
part with custom steel, and significantly cheaper,
you’ve got to say, than top-end carbon fiber. It is a boutique material, and so yes, there is a boutique cost as well. So the raw material is
between $10 and $12 per kilo. Finished tubes are between
$100 to $120 per kilo. But that puts it a little
bit more than standard steel and on a par with stainless steel. But dare I say though, and because it’s not quite so
fashionable at the moment perhaps, in the cycling world, there are some relative
bargains to be had. And to be fair, we’ve given you an awful lot of information so far, but we’ve not quite got to the nub yet of why titanium has such a loyal following and can be, frankly, so great. You can get a custom titanium
frame really quite easily and it’s going to be considerably lighter than an equivalent custom steel frame, so about 400 grams lighter. I’d guess an average custom
steel frame is about 1600 grams; titanium could be about 1200 grams. Which is pretty important
if you are looking to build a super light road bike. Yes titanium is reactive, but your frame is not going to corrode, not like steel, not like aluminum; it is going to last. And so for many people,
the Ti bike is the keeper. Beauty is very much in
the eye of the beholder, but I think titanium has
undeniably a special something. I mean look at the raw finish on this; it’s like it’s glowing. Ah, the ride quality,
even harder to pin down than aesthetics. Now traditionally, titanium
has a ride feel like no other. But the boundaries between
materials are blurring; engineering is taking
things to new places. So steel can now be as stiff as aluminum; aluminum can now be as
forgiving as carbon fiber. But titanium traditionally
has always been about zing. I heard it described back in the day like a great titanium frame
was trying to spring forward and gain momentum off every
bump or ripple in the road. And that, to my mind,
sounds pretty amazing. Now unfortunately, I’ve
literally never spent any proper time on a titanium bike. So at some point soon
I hope to remedy that. Well there is your Titanium 101. Hopefully you can add it now as a material that you know as much about as steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber. Please give this video a big thumbs up; if nothing else you’ve been
looking at some bike porn for the last few minutes. And if you want to watch
one of those videos, refresh your knowledge
about the other materials, why not check out the one
about aluminum just down there.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Now you need a primer on magnesium. I know of two manufacturers, one of which built my custom tandem, which is lighter than aluminum, more comfortable steel, and has virtually no flex — even at 55 mph or loaded for touring.

  2. Titanium was very popular in 90s because the military use dropped of with the end of the cold war and producers were desperate for a customer base. As tech has gone forward other uses have been found that are easier to produce like bolts and nuts and other such paraphernalia.

  3. after having ridden on chromoly steel, I think this is the best material for bike, the material retains the springiness which then releases itself, resulting in fast more effortless riding, its beautiful..

  4. I have three carbon bikes: an Alan from 1988, an ICE from 1998 and a Neuvation from 2011. The evolution has been mostly in compliance without sacrificing power stiffness, secondary to monocoque construction with infinitely variable tube material, shape and thickness. This suits me in my old age in terms of comfort. Can a Ti frame with fixed radius and thickness tubes really match that?

  5. can any body help me i need a screw who didn't rust nor collect salt in water plus pass electricity which metal i use help me plz.. i use normal metal screws it rusted plus collect salts under water in few days they didn't abe to pass electricity due rust and white salt layer gether on it

  6. i ride my bike (common touring bike) almost every day but i consider my self not as a cyclist, anyway i love the nerdiness of this topic.

  7. I have 3 ti bikes. Seven. Seven. Guru.
    I’ve had many other ti and steel frames in the past. I’ve ridden steel across China and Aussie and USA. I’ve ridden
    Ti across India and USA and Europe.
    I like Ti because often I find myself in the middle of a 10hr ride in the rain.
    Ti no rust.

  8. Great video on titanium and its working characteristics. If you want to spend some time on a test ti ride, give me a shout.. 🙂

  9. My history was Aluminium MTB: and I broke an Orange E3, a Marin Rocky Ridge, a GT xcr1000 plus 2 more which I forget. Then I bought Kona Heihei Ti, 2nd hand 10 years old and I have had more than 15 years. It rides so so smooth, no creaks, ever (the telltale of frame fatigue). I like it so much I had a painting commissioned of it and that's on my wall. I will take HeiHei to the grave, its going to outlast me.

  10. You say ti dose not corrode, it doesn't bit it can cold weld as i found out trying to remove a bottom bracket from my kona king kahuna, luckily it was extracted an frame was saved

  11. I first heard about Titanium from a 1986 Bicycle Guide Magazine (remember them) article where they talked about this wonderful new frame material with outrageous properties that was an absolute bitch to work with….oh and did I mention, just a little bit bit pricey, I still have a key fob made from 6/4 plate that I got from a Point Reyes Bikes employee.

  12. i'd love to submerge that frame in a bathtub with water and baking soda, and run a 30V DC Current through it to anodise it to a stunning blue.. or 60 V DC to make it Gold… 🙂
    Anodising Titanium is really easy, and recently i saw a video of an American bike builder that makes titanium frames, and the anodise their brand name on the frames.. Stunning!

  13. Titanium+Hammer=No more elbow pain and mch less weigh in your belt my fellow working men. Yes $200 sucks for a hammer, but it's worth it in the long run.

  14. It would be nice to afford all those bikes. A titanium one? Absolutely. Just envious. People compare their titanium bike to their other bikes and prefer, of course, their titanium ones. No one writes in and says, I just threw €3000 out the window. But in any case, isn't this comparing apples and pears? Is the carbon bike they compare with one with a comfortable wheel base, moderate seat and head tube angles? Probably not. If the titanium bike is built like an out and out racing machine, it'll be just as 'uncomfortable', as the carbon and aluminium bikes. No?

  15. I'm really not into buying TI frames, but I'd like to look into TI components, like handle bars, stems, forks, chainring, etc., where you don't want the flex of carbon or aluminum.

  16. I'm surprised you didn't take that titanium bike that's right in front of you out on a ride before the episode so you could have an opinion

  17. My bike is steel. I picked it out of the trash. A little elbow grease later I'm laughing all the way to the bank. 😂

  18. I've owned one Titanium bike in my life. it was an airborne "soft-tail" mountain bike. And it was a piece of shit. The disc brake mount broke off after a few months. I haven't seen a titanium mountain bike in MANY years. Everything is aluminum or carbon these days.

  19. Probably it's use is about as justifiable as those 'spendy' titanium hammers. Good or evil, the use of 'hammers' in construction is increasingly proscribed….by other kinds of fastenings…..

  20. I've run my Airborne, Lancaster As a road bike a downhillbike and is currently my xc rig, I prefer it to my yeti 575 and my foes fly. Love ti, the metal of the gods!

  21. I am able to walk, and ride my bikes because of Titanium, I had a bad accident and my pelvis was broken into multiple pieces, on arrival at the hospital and after xrays ,i was told it was unlikely i would ever walk again. But a world renown pelvic specialist heard of my case and took it on(it was filmed and used for his North American lecture tour), the operation lasted 27 hrs and my pelvis is held together by several specially shaped plates and 20 plus screws(all Titanium), My Xrays looks like they are from Steve Austin the bionic man, they didn't stitch me up they stapled me, it was horrific at the time. Although I'm OK now I ride an Ebike because it can only take so much pressure. Obviously I love Titanium and when i can afford it I intend to get a titanium frame and build a super ebike around it. Titanium is my favourite metal for obvious reasons.

  22. Aluminium is plenty strong enough for a bike ! and aluminium is 1/3 lighter ! There is no reason to used titanium on a bike frame ! Except as a fad !

  23. A friend of mine got a great deal on a Litespeed back in the 90s. I love my Klein (VERY lite and well engineered aluminum) but that Litespeed was like no other. Still my all time favorite. Carbon fiber at that time was like a joke. Felt like spending a lot of money for a plastic bike. I’m sure it’s come a long way by now. However I just cannot wrap my head around the price of modern bikes. Will ride the Klein until it’s dead.

  24. I had a titanium MTB from Dean and it was light and beautiful. I loved it until the moment I rode it, there was so much flex that it was difficult to shift. The bottom bracket would flop so bad that it would try to shift in to another ring when I got on it. No more Ti for me, thanks.

  25. Here’s an ironic fact: during the Cold War, the Soviet Union had the largest stock of titanium so the United States secretly purchased its titanium for the SR-71 from the USSR… they unknowingly helped America build the planes that spied on them!

  26. i have machined Titanium in aircraft. if you make small chips while machining it can catch on fire. and a reg fire extinguisher cant put the fire out. we had to cover it with a black power to keep it from spreading. and pray it doesnt burn your milling machine down to the floor.

  27. With 40 years in mainly Titanium with some Zirconium, Hafnium, Niobium and others thrown in for good measure I can conform the easier working properties of Ti 3Al/2.5V as against Ti 6-4. Also it is not only very reactive with Oxygen but with Hydrogen and Nitrogen too. In fact it is the only metal that will actually burn in Nitrogen and with a total absence of Oxygen. Ti3Al/2.5V tube can be successfully produced by a combination of either hot piercing or extrusion followed by reducing diameter / wall thickness at room temperatures by use of a Pilger Mill and lots and lots of oil.

  28. Titanium frames will still be around long after those steel frames have bent and rusted, long after those aluminium frames have been dented and cracked, long after those carbon frames have been crushed and corroded by sweat. Had 3 Ti bikes, several steel bikes and aluminum bikes. The Ti frame rides the best and are the stiffest. The mtbs I have and have had all have S bends in the chain stays which exploits the flex in Ti to give a bit of bump absorption in the right direction but make the frame stiff in the other direction for power transfer through the bottom bracket.

  29. With metal 3D printing and cold welding, some of the tougher alloys might become a lot easier to worth with, including exotic alloys that couldn't be manufactured conventionally. For a very extreme example, Lithium and Tungsten.

  30. Those videos you spliced in for "welding" was actually brazing. Not the same thing. You don't use an Oxy-acetylene torch to weld aluminum or titanium. You use a Tig welder.

    CHEAPASSED Ti frames are dime-a-dozen,… and even my last road bike (#0006 Argon18 Platinum) was better than those.

  32. well you have to take the "as strong as steel" with a grain of salt it can be as strong as certain steel types

  33. If you weld ti and it goes blue it's scrap… And when you weld it it tries to stick to everything hot and cold.

  34. What is scary is that China has 300x more titanium ore deposits than we do in the U.S. Vanadium also strengthens aluminum..

  35. Very nicely done, sir! Great pacing and cadence, great data presentation and relating it to practical matters, and a very positive overall demeanor. Bravo, mate!

  36. I use titanium guides and retainers in my cars engine heads. Them with Inconel valves makes for a stout head.
    I’m pushing about 39 pounds of boost so it’s nice knowing the valves and guides won’t be what fail.

  37. Titanium actually welds beautifully. Back Purge the pipes with argon and go slow with a steady hand, mind you torch angle and don't miss the puddle (the rod gets highly adhesive and will stick to the work if it's not liquid) some precision is involved but heat control is easier than some other materials.

  38. interestingly…if you know anything about metallurgy… titanium is added to (martensitic) steel alloys to STOP it from hardening!

  39. My dad has been a machinist at Timet Metals for nearly 45 years where they process titanium for placing like Boeing. Back in the the good ol' days when they produced titanium tubing before relocating the tubing mill to Tennessee, he was able to get a dozen sticks of 2.5" diameter tubing…makes AWESOME exhausts for your vehicle! Although it is tricky to bend because it wants to crinkle around the bends, once you got it formed it will LAST FOREVER regardless of the road salt like we have here in eastern Ohio for the Winter months. My dad has had his titanium dual exhaust on '79 Ford truck since the early 80's and 35 years later they still look like new and even get that cool rainbow coloring from the heat.
    Titanium dust/powder is also another cool property of titanium….it can do some explosively awesome things….we use to mix a little sugar with it and WOW it creates a sparking hell-fire fountain!!!
    ….and one simple way you can test to see if something is titanium, is to moderately strike it off of say something like a cement floor….you will see a bright and almost white spark get thrown off from it

  40. A bike that costs 10 grand will always feel faster than a more average bike. An expensive bike, car, or suit – all make you feel "special".

  41. Fact 1 Its metal
    Fact 2 Its shiny
    Fact 3 Its expensive
    Fact 4 Its got some letter and is on the periodic table
    Fact 5 Its known to science
    Fact 6 Its used by industry
    Fact 7 Its got a reputation worse than your mom's!

  42. Title is a bit misleading, I know a fair amount about the material form a machining perspective, and was hoping to learn more. This video seems to be about it's properties as they pertain to bicycle frames. Still interesting, but not what I expected.

  43. ……… titanium dioxide in face cream and artificial teeth and paints etc. isn't titanium metal… Titanium metal is a demanding element to extract from the oxide.

  44. I read about this company which made a berylium bike, Berylium doesn’t extrude so the tubes had to be made by rolling a sheet into a tube. I think welding was a problem, it was very light – but poisonous.

  45. Please don't use up all the Ti stock on your bikes. Make sure you save some for Cochrane to build the phoenix…Our future depends on it!

  46. How long does it last? Like if you drove a bike in the middle of a field and just laid it down. How long before it would deteriorate into someone unrecognizable? 100 years? 1000? 10,000?

  47. 1:45 The video states: "Both [3/2.5 and 6/4] have very high Young's Modulus."

    As a general rule, modulus is unchanged from minor alloying, so pure ti, 3/2.5, and 6/4 will all have about equal modulus. Ti has a modulus a bit over half of steel, so I wouldn't say it's "very high." It's definitely stiffer than aluminum, wood, plastics, etc., but it is far less stiff than steel or carbon.

  48. 5:05 Not only does ti react (i.e., 'burn') with oxygen at high temperature, it also will react with nitrogen at higher temperatures. In other words, if you heat up ti enough in air, it will burn all by itself, even after it consumes all the oxygen.

  49. Actually, it is titanium dioxide–a dioxin–and a carcinogen. It is absorbed through the skin and kills your liver.


  51. I'm hoping you know what GPa and MPa stand for. Using terms like Young's Modulus suggests you do. I would prefer you used the actual terms rather than the units for them. I don't have a kg or cm.

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