A small amount of molybdenum has a big impact

Molybdenum is an essential trace element for human, animal and plant life. It is essential for nitrogen fixation in plants and for the metabolism of amino acids in humans and animals. Some soils require supplemental molybdenum to promote healthy plant life and, for some animals added dietary molybdenum stimulates growth.

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Additions of only 0.1 per cent to 0.5 per cent of molybdenum are typically present in high strength low alloy steels, rising to 1 to 6 per cent in stainless steels. Superalloys have higher contents of molybdenum, but from the trace amounts needed in biology to those needed to enhance the performance of alloys, it is clear that a little molybdenum goes a very long way.

Molybdenum’s properties

Molybdenum’s properties make it uniquely effective in a wide range of alloys:

  • In low-alloy steels molybdenum increases strength and hardness, maintains toughness and increases high temperature strength
  • In stainless steels it increases corrosion resistance and high temperature strength
  • In nickel-based alloys it increases corrosion resistance
  • In superalloys it contributes to high temperature strength

These property-enhancing effects are often the key to a more sustainable use of materials. Molybdenum’s chemical versatility leads to further important uses in industrial chemicals which can also contribute to sustainable development.

Alloy steels

High strength steels containing molybdenum are used in applications for light-weighting, resulting in resource and energy savings. For instance:

  • In cars and trucks to enable lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • In large projects such as pipelines, bridges and buildings, saving both the quantity of materials required and also the energy for their production, transportation and fabrication.

Molybdenum’s hardening effect on low alloy steels is used in applications ranging from gear steels to wear parts to increase durability and ensure critical components in machines and tools last longer, reducing replacement and maintenance requirements.

Stainless steels & superalloys

Stainless steels and superalloys containing molybdenum are used in the process industries, oil and gas extraction, power generation and other applications. Their superior corrosion resistance and durability in harsh, corrosive environments increases service life and reduces maintenance - and they are 100 per cent recyclable.

Molybdenum bearing stainless steels are also used in architecture, building and construction for their resistance to corrosion in coastal and polluted environments. Common uses are in building facades, canopies and many kinds of street furniture.

The longevity and recyclability of these stainless steels and superalloys make an important contribution to reducing lifecycle costs both during use and at their end-of-life.

Industrial chemicals

Molybdenum is used in industrial chemicals which contribute to sustainable development, including catalysts, paints, pigments and fire retardants. Molybdenum catalysts are used in the hydrodesulfurization of fuels, reducing sulfur emissions to the environment from vehicles.

Molybdenum metal

Molybdenum metal finds many sustainable uses due to its high electrical and thermal conductivity and low coefficient of thermal expansion. These properties make molybdenum ideal for use in applications such as solar cells, a growing source of renewable energy.

Summary

Molybdenum satisfies a demand for materials that can demonstrate a high standard of environmental performance as well as meeting the necessary economic and performance criteria.