The Shining Pearl of the Aerospace Industry: Rhenium



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Rhenium has been discovered for almost a century, but it is still an unfamiliar element to most of us. It ranks 75th on the periodic table of the chemical elements and is the most recently discovered natural element.

Rhenium is a silver-white metal with little natural content. Rhenium is less abundant in the earth’s crust than all rare-earth elements and harder to get than diamonds. It is mostly used in the aerospace industry and is an important strategic precious metal. The world’s proven reserves of rhenium are only about 2,500 tonnes, according to the U.S Geological Survey.

rhenium (1)

Currently, rhenium and its alloys are widely used in aerospace, electronics, petrochemical, and other fields. One use of rhenium is as a catalyst in the petrochemical industry. Tantalum, tungsten alloy containing rhenium is considered the high-temperature metal alloy, and the tungsten-rhenium thermocouples can measure the high temperature of 3100 ℃. Rhenium plating (such as on the metal surface of spacecraft) increases wear resistance of materials, so rhenium has become an important material for aerospace, rockets, and missiles. In addition, rhenium tungsten alloy is used to make cathode of an electron tube, the life of which is 100 times longer than that of tungsten. Rhenium is used in manufacturing electric contractors, especially permanent magnet generator contactors for Marine vessels, which is durable.

The key metal of an aero-engine

Rhenium is widely used in jet engines and rocket engines, and about 80% of the world’s rhenium is used in aviation engines, which is of great significance in military strategy.

Single crystal blade in aero-engine is the first key part of aero-engine, which is located in the parts with the highest temperature, the most complicated stress, and the worst environment, which directly determines the performance of aero-engine. At the heart of a 1,000kg engine are 60 single crystal blades. The engine compresses the air and pushes it into the combustion chamber, where it burns violently with the fuel in limited space, producing a violent jet of gas that spins the blades at high speed and produces a stunning burst of power. Each blade produces as much horsepower as a 2.0-horsepower off-road car. It is reported that a 1000 kilogram level of high-pressure engine speed is close to 40000 revolutions per minute, the tangential velocity is about 450 meters per second, the temperature is about 1720 ℃. Therefore, the production of single crystal leaves cannot be separated from the rare metal rhenium.

At present, the annual production of rhenium in the world is 25 ~ 30 tons, and the sales price of rhenium per kilogram on the world market is 1500 ~ 3500 dollars. It is known that with the development of the aviation industry, the annual growth rate of rhenium consumption is 3%. Although rhenium is expensive, it is always in short supply.

With the rise of the aviation industry, rhenium will be used to make high-temperature coatings for rockets and missiles in the future, as well as for instruments and high-temperature components on spacecraft. The strategic value of rhenium will become more prominent in the future with further development in areas such as aero-engines, unmanned aerial vehicles, and high-speed aircraft.

The above is a brief introduction to the uses of rhenium in aerospace, and its applications go far beyond that. Advanced Refractory Metals always uses its experience and expertise to provide the highest quality pure rhenium products for your projects.

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