Ranked: The Most Expensive Materials Used in Industrial Manufacturing

Titanium, gold, diamonds are all well-known precious materials used in industrial manufacturing. When it comes to topics like jewelry and even construction applications, we have an idea of their value. But many other expensive materials are used behind doors in various industries. So not only do these materials have unknown values, it’s not clear to the general population the products containing them exist! 

Let’s have a look into some of the most expensive materials used in industrial manufacturing and the products they are used to manufacture. 

The Most Expensive Materials Used in Industrial Manufacturing

1. Diamond

In addition to being the world’s most expensive jewelry, diamonds are also some of the most expensive materials used in industrial manufacturing. Diamonds are best known for their hardness and ability to cut through any material (hence their use as drill bits), but they are also used as abrasives due to their heat resistance. They are also used in a variety of other applications, including:

  • Semiconductors
  • Laser windows and lenses
  • Heat sinks
  • Surgical tools
Diamond cut in rough diamond in coal mine
diamond cut in rough diamond in coal mine, concept of rare stone being mined, mineral wealth

2. Tritium

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen (H) with a half-life of approximately 12.3 years. It decays into helium-3 via beta decay, which is a natural process. Tritium is produced naturally when cosmic rays collide with atoms in the upper atmosphere. It can also be produced in nuclear reactors and heavy-ion accelerators as a byproduct of neutron capture reactions on lithium-6 and lithium-7.

Radioactive glow
Radioactive light (GTLS – gaseous tritium light source)

Tritium is used in industrial manufacturing because it emits low-energy beta particles that are relatively easy to contain and control. In the past, tritium was used to make self-powered lights, but this application has largely been supplanted by LED technology. Today, its most common use is to make lighted exit signs for emergency evacuation purposes.

Tritium costs about $30,000 per gram, but that’s not the reason it’s one of the most expensive materials in industrial manufacturing — it’s because tritium is difficult to acquire. Tritium occurs naturally in the atmosphere at extremely low levels and can be formed when cosmic rays strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere; however, most tritium on Earth is produced during nuclear reactions. [1]

3. Plutonium

Plutonium Pu, chemical element. 3D rendering isolated on black background
Plutonium Pu, chemical element. 3D rendering isolated on black background

Plutonium is a synthetic radioactive chemical element. It was discovered by Glenn Seaborg, Edwin McMillan, Joseph Kennedy, and Arthur Wahl in 1940 at Berkeley. Plutonium is classified as an actinide and metal. This element is radioactive in nature. Plutonium can be obtained through the process of transmutation of uranium-238 or thorium-232 into plutonium-239.

Plutonium and its compounds have several industrial uses. The main application of plutonium is to produce energy through nuclear fission reactions that are used to generate electricity in nuclear power plants. It also has use in military weaponry such as nuclear bombs and warheads.

For these reasons, plutonium is extremely toxic and must be handled with care to prevent it from becoming airborne and inhaled. However, the element is used in aerospace, energy, chemistry, and health care industries.

4. Osmium

Highlight on chemical element Osmium in periodic table of elements
Highlight on chemical element Osmium in periodic table of elements. 3D rendering

Osmium is a naturally occurring element with the highest density of any naturally-occurring element. It also has a high melting point and is resistant to corrosion, making it ideal for industrial manufacturing. The metal was discovered in 1803 by English chemist Smithson Tennant, who isolated it from platinum ore. [2]

Osmium has a wide variety of uses in industrial manufacturing because of its extreme hardness, high melting point, and resistance to chemical reactions such as corrosion. The element is used in alloys with other metals such as iridium and platinum; the tungsten carbide used in drills is typically osmium-iridium alloys. 

Osmium is also used for electrical contacts due to its extreme hardness and low vapor pressure, even at high temperatures. The metal is also useful for nibs used in fine pens because of its extreme hardness, which prevents it from wearing down even under prolonged use.

5. Rhodium

Focus on chemical element Rhodium illuminated in periodic table of elements
Focus on chemical element Rhodium illuminated in periodic table of elements. 3D rendering

Rhodium is a metal that has seen its demand and prices rise in recent years. The discovery of this metal dates back to 1803 when William Hyde Wollaston discovered it. It was named after the Greek word meaning rose-colored because of its color. [3]

Rhodium is corrosion-resistant and hard, making it ideal for use in numerous products and applications. In industrial manufacturing, rhodium is used in plating applications and as catalysts for automotive catalytic converters.

One of the most common uses for rhodium in industrial manufacturing is plating. This means adding a layer of rhodium to another metal or item to protect it from tarnishing or other damage. Rhodium plating can also be used to make the surface shiny and reflective like silver. [4]

Plating with rhodium can be done on various metals, but one of the most common uses is to plate white gold jewelry with rhodium. This makes the white gold appear much more like silver or platinum and provides protection against scratching or other damage.

6. Iridium

Pair of new automobile spark plugs
Pair of new automobile spark plugs isolated on white background 3d

This is one of the most expensive metals used in industrial manufacturing and is considered a precious metal. It is mostly used in industrial applications but also has a few uses in everyday life. The main use for this metal is used in the production of platinum alloys, which are used for electrical contacts and jewelry. Iridium also has a high melting point, and it is applied in the manufacturing of spark plugs for combustion engines.

Iridium is used in industrial manufacturing in several ways. It is used in electrical contacts because of its great durability and resistance to wear. Jewelry makers like to use it for making pens and even fountain pens because of its density and weight, which make for a great writing experience. It’s also used to make spark plugs, fuel cells, crucibles, and thermocouples.

7. Palladium

Palladium is a chemical element that at room temperature contracts in the solid state
Palladium is a chemical element that at room temperature contracts in the solid state. Metal used in industry. Mineral extraction concept.

Palladium is an extremely rare and expensive metal. The cost of this metal depends on various factors and has varied over the years. In 2008, it was priced at $354.17 per troy ounce. In 2010, the price fluctuated between $397 and $800 per troy ounce. 

Since then, its price has been fluctuating, with its current value being around $2,316 per troy ounce. Palladium is used for making computer hard disk drives and surgical instruments, among other things. [5]

The most common use for palladium is automotive catalytic converters. Catalytic converters are devices that convert harmful toxic gases into less harmful gases before they exit the car’s exhaust system. Palladium acts as a catalyst to help convert exhaust gases into water vapor, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.

8. Gold

1/4 Turkish Gold coin necklace.
1/4 Turkish Gold coin necklace.

Gold is a naturally occurring metal known for its value and resistance to corrosion. It is very attractive and widely used in the production of jewelry, coins, and other goods.

However, gold has other properties that make it useful in many fabrication processes. For example, it has high electrical conductivity and ductility. These make it a particularly good material for circuit boards and semiconductors. Its ability to maintain its form when subjected to high temperatures makes it ideal for wiring applications.

Gold even resists corrosion more effectively than other metals like silver and copper, making it a better metallic choice for certain applications where corrosion could lead to malfunctions or other issues.

9. Platinum 

Platinum has been used for industrial purposes for more than 200 years. The metal is a catalyst, which means it can be used to speed up chemical reactions or start chemical reactions that wouldn’t otherwise happen. Platinum’s ability to perform these functions makes it valuable in the industrial manufacturing industry.

Platinum is used as a catalyst in the production of nitric acid. Nitric acid is used by itself in the chemical industry to produce compounds like ammonium nitrate and other nitrogen-containing products. These chemicals are widely used in fertilizers, explosives, and other industrial processes.

Platinum is also used as a catalyst in the production of sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is one of the most widely-produced chemicals in the world, with more than 40 million tons produced annually. [6]

Conclusion

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry has been downsizing and, in some cases outsourcing manufacturing operations to cheaper labor markets overseas. That’s not to say that expensive materials don’t have a place in industrial manufacturing, but there is an increasing trend towards saving money by producing goods with lower-quality materials.

References

  1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/05/18/the-most-valuable-substances-in-the-world-by-weight/tritium
  2. https://www.livescience.com/39142-osmium.html
  3. https://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/45/rhodium
  4. https://www.qevon.com/blogs/q-lifestyle/what-is-rhodium-plated-jewelry-14-frequently-asked-questions
  5. https://www.macrotrends.net/2542/palladium-prices-historical-chart-data
  6. https://nature.berkeley.edu/classes/eps2/wisc/pt.html 
  7. https://www.williamhenry.com/the-most-expensive-materials-in-the-world 
  8. https://www.mining-technology.com/features/five-most-expensive-metals-and-where-they-are-mined/