Molybdenum and rhenium, key metals for the progress

Due to their resistance and durability, molybdenum and rhenium are key for the development in many areas ranging from engineering to household products.

What is molybdenum?

Molybdenum (Mo) is a silvery grey chemical element that is not found in a pure state in nature, but as molybdenite. Molybdenite can be found in the different Earth’s layers combined with other elements, mainly with copper. Given its durability and resistance to high temperatures and corrosion, molybdenum is widely used in high quality steel alloys required for the metallurgic, chemical and steel industries.


What is rhenium?

Rhenium (Re) is one of the rarest elements on Earth. It is not found in a pure state in nature, but combined with other minerals such as molybdenite. Given its density, hardness and resistance to high temperatures, rhenium is used in elaborating super-alloys applied mainly to the aeronautic industry and to elaborate catalyzers.


A molybdenum and rhenium world



The best water pipelines contain molybdenum in order to avoid the formation of oxide and cracks and thus reducing leaks and maintaining drinking water clean.



Processing molybdenum in catalysts not only allows for a more efficient fuel refinement but also improves environmental care by diminishing sulfur emissions.



Given its great resistance to corrosion, molybdenum is found in every type of high-quality stainless steel. For instance, stretchers, operating rooms, and other steel elements used in the healthcare industry contain molybdenum.



Flat-screen displays used in computers and cellphones must be flat but resistant; molybdenum makes these screens easily conduct energy, support pixels and also prevent them from being damaged by daily and intensive use.



Molybdenum has the greatest resistance to high temperatures, climate changes and corrosion caused by salt in coastal areas; thus, this metal plays a significant role in improving durability and safety of mega steel constructions.



Little amounts of molybdenum are found in living organisms’ cells, which are essential for the development of metabolism. That is why it is included in fertilizers and even in drugs used by people with molybdenum deficiency due to their diet.



Chilean researchers designed rhenium compounds that may aid in identifying cancer cells and thus, improving the fight against said disease.



Rhenium can also be found in space rockets; using it is the only way whereby their combustion chambers can resist the extremely high temperatures reached in launching said rockets into space.



Rhenium-platinum catalysts are used in the production of high octane lead-free fuel; this improves refinery efficiency and, besides, the rhenium used has a high recycling rate.



There is no modern aircraft turbine which does not contain rhenium. This metal resists thermal stress and alloys containing it can support extreme temperature changes without being damaged and preserving all its properties. This way, rhenium has made possible the longest flights in aviation history.


Molybdenum is not found in a pure state in nature, rather it is obtained as molybdenum concentrate, that is to say, combined with other minerals. This concentrate -also known as molybdenite- can be obtained directly (primary molybdenum mines) or as a byproduct of copper extraction activities (secondary molybdenum mines). Nowadays, processed molybdenum is found mainly as a byproduct of copper. Companies like Molymet treat mineral concentrates with various processes -cleaning and roasting mainly- whereby metals are chemically transformed to obtain molybdenum oxide, which is used as a basis to elaborate a wide variety of products, especially steel alloys.

Molybdenum is mainly used in special steel alloys, where it significantly improves hardness and resistance to high temperatures and corrosion, increases durability and improves machinery efficiency. This chemical element is also applied to the production of fertilizers, catalysts and lubricants, among others. The most relevant molybdenum products are: technical oxide, ferromolybdenum, ammonium dimolybdate, pure oxide and metallic molybdenum.

Although some products from the sixteenth century containing molybdenum have been found, using this chemical element has become usual only at the end of the nineteenth century. In that moment, some first experiments showed that molybdenum could replace tungsten in many steel alloys, achieving lower weight and higher resistance. Then, the First World War increased the demand for steel and thus restricted tungsten supply. This tungsten scarcity boosted the use of molybdenum and the research on new applications of this metal which has proved to be an invaluable component for nickel-based alloys, lubricants, chemical products, products for the electronic industry and many other areas.

Molybdenum is a natural element that, apart from being found as a metal, is also found in small amounts in plants, animals and even in the human body. Thus, molybdenum is key for life.

Just as molybdenum, rhenium does not exist in a pure state in nature. This chemical element is usually found bound to molybdenite, which is, in turn, a byproduct of copper. Consequently, rhenium is obtained through cleaning and treatment processes applied to molybdenite concentrates. Rhenium is commercialized mainly as metallic rhenium and ammonium perrhenate.

Given its great hardness and resistance to high temperatures, rhenium is mainly used as an additive to elaborate super-alloys which, in turn, are used to manufacture turbines within the aeronautic industry and, to a lesser extent, catalyzers for oil refineries.

Rhenium was discovered in 1925 by three German scientists and was named after the Rhine River given that it was firstly found near said river.

The largest rhenium reserves in the Word are located in Chile, followed by USA, Russia, Kazakhstan and Armenia. Chile has 50% of the rhenium global production and Molymet is the main participant in said market.

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