Before titanium was used to replace hips and knees, stainless steel was used.
The density of stainless steel used to make replacement hips and knees is about 7.8 g cm3. The density of titanium metal is 4.506 g cm3, about half the density of stainless steel. This means that a replacement joint made out of titanium will weigh less than the same replacement joint made out of stainless steel.
Titanium is also strong. The strength of the material used to replace hip and knee joints is important because you do not want your new joint to bend or break or under strain.
Titanium has a melting point of 1670°C and a boiling point of 3287°C, which means it remains solid over the range of temperatures humans are exposed to. This is important because you want your new hip or knee replacement to remain a solid!
Naturally occurring titanium is made up of a number of isotopes, all of which are stable so they do not undergo nuclear decay. This is important because it means that there is no loss of titanium mass due to radioactive decay, and there is no fear of damage to cells from the emission of radiation.
Titanium metal will react with water, halogens and dilute hydrochloric acid, but only if the temperature is elevated well above body temperature. Similarly, titanium metal will react with oxygen in a combustion reaction at elevated temperatures. Titanium metal does not appear to react with bases at all. Therefore, titanium is unlikely to react with substances found in the human body.
Researchers at Rice University have found that alloying titanium with gold can produce an even better material to use for replacement hips and knees. Mixing titanium and gold in the ratio of 3:1 at high temperature produces an alloy that is 3 times harder than steel and 4 times harder than the pure titanium commonly in use for hip and knee replacements. The atoms of titanium and gold in this alloy are packed in a cubic arrangement, an arrangement that is usually associated hardness. The structure of this alloy is shown below:
This titanium gold alloy has been found to be even more biocompatible that pure titanium.
The researchers intend to undertake further studies to investigate whether using chemical dopants might improve the alloy's hardness even further.
Rice University. "Titanium and gold equals new gold standard for artificial joints: Titanium-gold alloy that is 4 times harder than most steels." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 July 2016.
Metals and Non-metals
Relative Atomic Mass
Suggested Study Questions
- Titanium and gold are both metallic metallic elements.
- What are the physical properties common to most metallic elements?
- What are the chemical properties common to most metallic elements?
- Draw up a table of the physical properties of titanium.
- A typical knee replacement made out of titanium has a mass of 560 g.
- Calculate the volume of the titanium knee replacement.
- Calculate the mass of the same knee replacement if it were made out of stainless steel
- Define the term isotope.
- Determine the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom of each of the isotopes of titanium listed in the article above.
- Determine the number of neutrons in the nucleus of an atom of each of the isotopes of titanium lists in the article above.
- Which is the most abundant isotope of titanium? Explain your answer.
- Use the data in the article above to calculate the relative atomic mass of naturally occurring titanium.
- Given the atomic radius of titanium is 176 pm (1.76 x 10-10 m) and the atomic radius of gold is 174 pm (1.74 x 10-10 m), do you think the alloy of titanium and gold discussed in the article above is an interstitial alloy or a substitutional alloy? Explain your answer.
- Consider the structure of the titanium gold alloy shown in the diagram in the article above.
- The blue balls represent which atoms of which element?
- The red balls represent which atoms of which element?