Titanium is rather abundant in the Earth’s crust, though it is rather hard to purify from its naturally occurring state of titanium dioxide, the white pigment commonly used in paints and dyes. To purify titanium into its metallic state it takes massive amounts of electricity.
Titanium is lightweight, insanely strong, and very stable at high temps. So much so that an alloy of Titanium called 6Al4V was used in the construction of the vaunted SR-71 Blackbird (the world’s fastest airplane) to withstand the extreme temps of up to 950 degrees F created by the friction of the airflow and high super sonic speeds.
What makes Titanium so expensive if its such a common element? As it turns out pure titanium does not exist in nature and it is very difficult to extract from the chemical bonds it is typically found in. Today this is done using the Kroll process.
The Kroll process in a nut shell.
- The ore begins in a fluidized bed reactor which produces purified titanium oxide.
- The purified titanium oxide is then oxidized with chlorine to produce titanium tetrachloride.
- The impurities are then fractionally distilled.
- The product is then moved into a stainless steel reactor where it is mixed with magnesium in an atmosphere of argon. Titanium 3 and titanium 2 chlorides (TiCl2) are the results of this step.
- Titanium 3 and titanium 2 are then reduced to produce pure titanium and magnesium chloride.
As we can see here this process is insanely complex, difficult to perform, as well as, consuming an increasable amount of energy. You can read more about this fascinating process over on Ulbrich’s website. They are experts in the field of titanium smelting.
Just like our metal dice, these bricks receive our signature Dragon’s Breath Finish. This is a heat anodization process applied by hand to each die. The artisan’s skill here is showcased in the bright vivid coloration unique to each individual dice. This coloration will range in a pattern of hues from golden bronze, through a deep violet, to royal and sky blues.
Just how are we able to attain such a vibrant color pallet? Through science of course! Our Dragon’s Breath process involves an exceedingly intense flame, over 3,700 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. Under this blast of pure distilled draconic hate, the base metal undergoes a surface transformation by reacting with atmospheric oxygen. This reaction forms a clear crystalline oxide layer that is much harder than the base metal. But how does this layer of clear titanium crystal create those beautiful colors?!?! Through the magic of a soap bubble.
Soap bubbles are made of a very thin film of… well soap.
Much like the soap bubble above, light can both pass through and reflect off the surface of the clear crystalline layer formed by our Dragon’s Breath process. This happens at the molecular level meaning the difference between both the reflective surface of the crystalline layer and the base titanium are mere nanometers apart. This happens to coincide with the wave length of light.
Using this interference in the reflected light we can control the perceived color of the brick simply by controlling how thick we allow the outer layer of titanium crystal to grow. This is done by carefully controlling the amount of heat the die is exposed to and how long the die is left at elevated temperatures. Depending on the final thickness in a given area of the die we can achieve different levels of both constructive interference and destructive interference.