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Strong, lightweight titanium is edging onto steel and aluminum's turf

Metal appearing in everything from medical instruments to marine structures

Airbus makes ample use of titanium alloy and carbon fiber components in its A350XWB jet.

TOKYO -- Titanium is gaining more and more of a presence in manufactured goods. While it cannot be produced in large volumes, it is heat-resistant, lightweight and corrosion-proof. It was first used in the defense industry, and its applications have now spread from aircraft to autoparts, construction materials and medical instruments.

The current, widespread method of refining titanium was discovered 70 years ago. Though it is the fourth most abundant practical metal after aluminum, iron and magnesium, titanium is still classified as a rare metal because of the difficulty of refining it.

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