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Titanium dioxide, also known as titanium(IV) oxide or titania, is the naturally occurring oxide of titanium, chemical formula TiO2. When used as a pigment, it is called titanium white, Pigment White 6, or CI 77891. It is noteworthy for its wide range of applications, from paint to sunscreen to food colouring.

Natural occurrence

Titanium dioxide occurs in four forms:

Titanium dioxide occurrences in nature are never pure; it is found with contaminant metals such as iron. The oxides can be mined and serve as a source for commercial titanium. The metal can also be mined from other minerals such as ilmenite or leucoxene ores, or one of the purest forms, rutile beach sand.


Crude titanium dioxide is purified via titanium tetrachloride in the Chloride process. In this process, the crude ore (containing at least 90% TiO2) is reduced with carbon, oxidized with chlorine to give titanium tetrachloride. This titanium tetrachloride is distilled, and re-oxidized with oxygen to give pure titanium dioxide.[1]


Titanium dioxide is the most widely used white pigment because of its brightness and very high refractive index (n=2.4), in which it is surpassed only by a few other materials. When deposited as a thin film, its refractive index and colour make it an excellent reflective optical coating for dielectric mirrors and some gemstones, for example "mystic fire topaz". TiO2 is also an effective opacifier in powder form, where it is employed as a pigment to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, coatings, plastics, papers, inks, foods, medicines (i.e. pills and tablets) as well as most toothpastes. Used as a white food colouring, it has E number E171. In cosmetic and skin care products, titanium dioxide is used both as a pigment and a thickener. It is also used as a tattoo pigment and styptic pencils.

This pigment is used extensively in plastics and other applications for its UV resistant properties where it acts as a UV reflector.

In ceramic glazes titanium dioxide acts as an opacifier and seeds crystal formation. In almost every sunscreen with a physical blocker, titanium dioxide is found both because of its refractive index and its resistance to discolouration under ultraviolet light. This advantage enhances its stability and ability to protect the skin from ultraviolet light. Sunscreens designed for infants or people with sensitive skin are often based on titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, as these mineral UV blockers are less likely to cause skin irritation than chemical UV absorber ingredients, such as avobenzone.

Titanium oxide is also used as a semi-conductor.[2]

As a photocatalyst

Titanium dioxide, particularly in the anatase form, is a photocatalyst under ultraviolet light. Recently it has been found that titanium dioxide, when spiked with nitrogen ions, is also a photocatalyst under visible light. The strong oxidative potential of the positive holes oxidizes water to create hydroxyl radicals. It can also oxidize oxygen or organic materials directly. Titanium dioxide is thus added to paints, cements, windows, tiles, or other products for sterilizing, deodorizing and anti-fouling properties and is also used as a hydrolysis catalyst. It is also used in the Graetzel cell, a type of chemical solar cell.

Titanium dioxide has potential for use in energy production: as a photocatalyst, it can:

  1. carry out hydrolysis, i.e., break water into hydrogen and oxygen. Were the hydrogen collected, it could be used as a fuel. The efficiency of this process can be greatly improved by doping the oxide with carbon, as described in "Carbon-doped titanium dioxide is an effective photocatalyst" [1].
  2. produce electricity when in nanoparticle form. Research suggests that by using these nanoparticles to form the pixels of a screen, they generate electricity when transparent and under the influence of light. If subjected to electricity on the other hand, the nanoparticles blacken, forming the basic characteristics of a LCD screen. According to creator Zoran Radivojevic, Nokia has already built a functional 200 by 200 pixels monochromatic screen which is energetically self-sufficient.

As TiO2 is exposed to UV light, it becomes increasingly hydrophilic; thus, it can be used for anti-fogging coatings or self-cleaning windows. TiO2 incorporated into outdoor building materials, such as paving stones in noxer blocks, can substantially reduce concentrations of airborne pollutants such as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

For wastewater remediation

TiO2 offers great potential as an industrial technology for detoxification or remediation of wastewater due to several factors.

  1. The process occurs under ambient conditions.
  2. The formation of photocyclized intermediate products, unlike direct photolysis techniques, is avoided.
  3. Oxidation of the substrates to CO2 is complete.
  4. The photocatalyst is inexpensive and has a high turnover.
  5. TiO2 can be supported on suitable reactor substrates.

Other applications

It is also used in resistance-type lambda probes (a type of oxygen sensor).

Titanium dioxide is what allows osseointegration between an artificial medical implant and bone.

Titanium dioxide in solution or suspension can be used to cleave protein that contains the amino acid proline at the site where proline is present. This breakthrough in cost-effective protein splitting took place at ASU in 2006.[3]

Titanium dioxide on silica is being developed as a form of odor control in cat litter. The purchased photocatalyst is vastly cheaper than the purchased silica beads, per usage, and prolongs their effective odor-eliminating life substantially.

The Pilkington Activ glass has a special nano-scale, extremely thin hydrophobic coating of microcrystalline titanium oxide which catalyses the break-down of organic surface contamination by ultraviolet light from the sun. [2]

Historical uses

The Vinland map, the map of America ("Vinland") that was supposedly drawn during mid-15th century based on data from the Viking Age, has been declared a forgery on the basis that the ink on it contains traces of the TiO2-form anatase; TiO2 was not synthetically produced before the 1920s. Recently (1992) a counter-claim has been made that the compound can be formed from ancient ink.

Titanium dioxide white paint was used to paint the Saturn V rocket, which is so far the only rocket that has sent astronauts to the moon. In 2002, a spectral analysis of J002E3, a celestial object, showed that it had titanium dioxide on it, giving evidence it may be a Saturn V S-IVB.

See also

  • Noxer, a building material incorporating TiO2.


  1. "Titanium Dioxide Manufacturing Processes". Millenium Inorganic Chemicals. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
  2. http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PR/v61/i1-2/p56_1
  3. http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/article.cgi/ancham/2007/79/i04/pdf/ac0613737.pdf

External links

ar:ثاني أكسيد التيتانيوم de:Titandioxid it:Diossido di titanio hu:Titán-dioxid nl:Titaanwit fi:Titaanidioksidi sv:Titandioxid

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