Ruthenium is a chemical element from the periodic cable, existing in the form of a rare transition metal that belongs to the platinum group. Ruthenium is considered chemically inert, meaning that it does not undergo any reactions when it comes into contact with most chemicals, whether in nature or during the manufacturing process. While tarnish may not result from ruthenium being in a room temperature environment, it may be explosive from oxidation, and may be attacked by hydroxides and halogenics. Ruthenium was discovered in Kazan, Russia in 1844, and it is most often found as a part of platinum ores. Ruthenium may present use across a variety of applications ranging from benefitting chemical process catalysts to combining with platinum and palladium to manufacture electrical contacts. They are also very useful for a number of aerospace and aircraft manufacturing, due in part to their high melting point and robustness among other properties.
Within the realm of aerospace and aircraft engineering, it is a critical need for components and equipment to be capable of withstanding great temperatures, pressures, and other extreme conditions during normal operation. When ruthenium is added to metals such as platinum, titanium, and palladium, their resistances may be increased. In the case of platinum, adding ruthenium may increase corrosion resistance by over a hundred times. Within aerospace manufacturing, ruthenium may be used to manufacture contacts, resistors, semiconductors, wiring, fuel cells, and turbines.
Regarding electrical contacts, ruthenium is used to mitigate wear by providing increased resistance. Electrical contacts are components that are used to open or close a circuit by connecting contacts. Different types of electrical contacts may use platinum or palladium alloys for their conductive properties, and adding ruthenium can greatly increase the durability of these alloys by hardening them. A thin film of ruthenium may be all that is needed for achieving strengthening results, and electrical contacts remain one of the main uses of ruthenium.
Resistor manufacturing also benefits from the addition of ruthenium, most often being featured in thick-film chip resistors. Resistors are an electrical component that may be implemented within an electrical system to limit current and voltage for the protection of other system components. Ruthenium dioxide may be added alongside bismuth and lead ruthenates to increase wear resistance. Alongside electrical contacts, resistors account for the major uses of ruthenium, together accounting for 50% of all ruthenium consumption.
Semiconductors are the building block of modern electronics, providing for properties that allow for the production of diodes and transistors that are used across almost all common electronics. Within a semiconductor assembly, ruthenium may be beneficial as the plating due to their low resistance and durability, among other capabilities. Ruthenium may also be used as a dopant for organic semiconductors to increase their conductive properties through the addition of more electrons.
Within wiring applications of the aerospace industry, ruthenium may provide for an alternative for copper in regards to connectors. This is due to ruthenium’s higher melting point and lower resistance and sensitivity. Ruthenium alloys may also be added to wiring similar to other applications in order to increase the integrity and temperature resistance of the electrical component. Due to the harsh conditions of aircraft operations, any increased resistance to temperatures is greatly beneficial.
Some aircraft may use fuel cells for the powering of propellers through electricity, and this sector is currently a heavily researched topic as the evolution of aircraft technology continues. A fuel cell catalyst consisting of ruthenium atoms affixed to graphene has proven to be a more cost efficient option than using the standard platinum catalyst. Fuel cell catalysts are an important component to fuel cell technology, allowing for the conversion of chemical energy into electricity within the fuel cell.
Lastly, recent research into adding ruthenium to turbine blades has also proven to be fruitful, increasing the strength of blades so that they may operate with more efficiency. Within turbine blades, a small percentage of ruthenium may be added to nickel-based alloy to provide the benefits of durability. Currently, this application remains in research and testing.
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