Roughly 52,000 kilograms, or 52 metric tons, of rhenium was produced worldwide during 2017. The United States is by far the largest consumer of this critical mineral, accounting for 42,600 metric tons, or nearly 82 percent, of last year’s global production. Nearly 80 percent of the rhenium consumed in the United States is used in superalloys vital to highly efficient jet turbine engines. “The high-temperature properties of rhenium allow turbine engines to be designed with closer tolerances, thus enabling increased thrust and higher operating efficiency,” the USGS explains. The turbine engines in older generation U.S. military aircrafts, such as the F-15 and F-16 fighters, were made from a nickel-based superalloy containing 3 percent rhenium. The turbines in newer generation fighters, such as the F-22 and F-35, contain 6 percent rhenium. The higher rhenium content alloys and limited supply pushed the price of rhenium to a high of US$10,600 per kilogram before the markets crashed in 2009.
Enormous copper-gold deposit in Alaska contains enough of this superalloy metal to supply global needs for 40 years. With a melting point of 5,756 degrees Fahrenheit and a heat-stable crystalline structure, rhenium is extremely resistant to both heat and wear. This durability makes it a vital element in superalloys used in jet and industrial gas turbine engines. “The high-temperature properties of rhenium allow turbine engines to be designed with finer tolerances and operate at temperatures higher than those of engines constructed with other materials,” the United Continue reading