Molybdenum is the 42nd element on the periodic table and its symbol is Mo. It is a silvery metal and has the sixth highest melting point of any elements, demonstrating its possible uses in construction and metals. While molybdenum is not traditionally found in many household products, this is beginning to shift slightly and new uses are constantly being found. Currently, the main use of Molybdenum is in the commercial and industrial industries where it plays a large role in manufacturing. Due to its relative strength and heat resistance it is also used by both the military and in space exploration.
Discovered in 1778 by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, there was no viable use of Molybdenum for over a century. This was due to its scarcity and difficulty in extracting the pure element. It wasn't until 1906 when it found its potential use; used as a heating element for furnaces and as a support for tungsten light bulbs.
During World War One, demand for Molybdenum increased dramatically. Molybdenum was used as armour plating for tanks, other military vehicles and also as a substitute for tungsten. After the war, its demand dropped and it wasn't until World War Two where it again had an important role. In modern society, technological advances have increased the uses of molybdenum significantly.
Molybdenum has the ability to withstand extremely high temperatures without its shape changing, expanding or softening significantly. This ability makes its involvement in high heat situations very useful. It is used in manufacturing of armour, aircraft parts, industrial motors, filaments and electrical contacts. When considering high strength steel alloys, it should be noted that they typically contain between 0.25% and 8% molybdenum.
To break down how molybdenum is used approximately;
37% is used to create construction grade steel.
22% is used in the manufacturing of stainless steel.
15% is used in chemicals such as lubricant grade MoS2.
9% is used in the creation of tool and high-speed steels.
7% goes towards cast iron.
6% in Molybdenum Metal.
4% towards super alloys.
Factoring in its use in construction steel, tool and high-speed steel and in cast iron, more than 50% of Molybdenum is used in the manufacturing of Molybdenum grade allow steel and iron. Within the chemical component of molybdenum's use, it is commonly used as a smoke suppressant and as mentioned, lubricants where it performs exceptionally well in comparison to other lubricants. Use of molybdenum is also important in agriculture. Molybdenum is an important trace element for plants and animals and is an essentially component of enzyme nitrogenase which helps converts atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. It is especially useful in the growing of cauliflower.
While the use of molybdenum was non-existent when it was first discovered and for over a century afterwards, due to the difficulty in acquiring it, it started to become useful during war times where it's strength to weight ratio far exceeded anything else on the market. Until the end of World War Two, its use was primarily military, which it still plays a vital role in today. But the use of molybdenum has expanded to various new uses as technology has developed and it now plays a critical role in construction and even in agriculture.