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IYPT Elements

IYPT 2019 Elements 022: Titanium: Sunscreens and space stations

Element 22 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is titanium. A key component of many sunscreens, titanium is also found in the parts of the International Space Station, as well as in artificial joints.

Titanium dioxide is a key component of sunscreens. Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide absorb and scatter ultraviolet light, preventing sunburn. It’s often used in combination with organic chemicals which also absorb some of the frequencies of ultraviolet light. Titanium dioxide can also likely be found on the walls inside your home, as it is used in white paints.

Titanium is as strong as steel but is also less dense. This means it finds a lot of applications where strength and being lightweight are important properties, including in some sports equipment. Additionally, it’s used for many parts on board the International Space Station for the same reasons.

Its strength, as well as the fact that it’s wear-resistant and non-toxic, means that titanium metal or alloys of titanium are used to make artificial joints.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.