Molybdenum is from the Greek word molybdos meaning “lead like.” It is directly mined and is a byproduct of copper mining. It was used very infrequently up until the 19th century when Schneider and Co decided to use Molybdenum as an alloying agent in steel. Today there are many uses of molybdenum.
Molybdenum is still used as an alloy agent in steel. All high strength steel contains from .25% to 8% molybdenum which contributes to the hardenability of the steel. It also improves the strength of steel under high temperatures and improves resistance to corrosion.
Steel with molybdenum is used in architectural applications near the ocean; and in environments where road salts are used and there is heavy industrial pollution. The Petrons Towers in Kuala Lumpur are a great example of the use of molybdenum stainless steel.
Nuclear energy applications also use molybdenum as do many aircraft parts and missile parts. It’s a catalyst in petroleum refining; in fact it is one of the most valuable. It is also used as a filament material in electrical applications and on electrodes for glass furnaces that are electrically heated. It is a good lubricant that will work in temperatures much higher than oil without decomposing.
Its uses are actually more in-depth than one might think. You’ll find it commonly used within the power industry, chemical processing industry, water industry, and wastewater industry. It is also used in construction, building, and architecture; which one might have guessed considering its association to steel. And you will find it in the food industry which seems a bit unusual.
Molybdenum is used to harden and strengthen cast iron. It accomplishes this by changing the pearlite temperature. The use of molybdenum eliminates the need for special heat treatments.
Molybdenum is also used in nickel based alloys, which includes jet engines. It strengthens the nickel alloy and extends the service temperature. This combination is considered a super alloy. Over 1/3 of a jet engine’s weight is made up of this super alloy.
Molybdenum is a silvery white metal that is very hard. However it is more ductile and softer than tungsten. It has a very high melting point. In fact the only other two metals that have a higher melting point are tantalum and tungsten. Its prime use is in the hardenability and tempering of metals such as steel. It is not a product most of us will ever have direct involvement with but we will likely encounter it in a more subtle manner.