Illmenite

How can this bright white come from a black mineral?

The dark-coloured mineral ilmenite is rich in iron and titanium and this potential pigment was identi ed as an element in 1795. The earliest uses of a synthetic titanium were during the late 1800’s as opaci ers and in vitreous enamels.

Naturally occurring titanium dioxide was not used as a pigment because it was too highly contaminated with iron and a suitable puri cation method was not devel- oped until the 1920’s.

Originally treated with sulphuric acid to form a solution of sulphate, it was hydrolyzed to form a white precipitate of hydrated titanium dioxide. This was then roasted in a furnace to form the white pigment.

Titanium dioxide is nowadays manufactured by a different method called the chloride process and it is the most widely used pigment of all time.

It is very safe to use, has the highest hiding power of all the white pigments, has excellent light-fastness and is very popular in modern artists’ colours. It is also very widely used in decorative paints, plastics, printing inks and many other applications.