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rhenium pellets are a light-gray, sintered tablet that is used in the production of the rhenium-tungsten alloy that is required for making the turbine blades for jet engines. It also can be added to nickel-based superalloys to improve their ability to withstand high temperatures. Rhenium has the second highest melting point of any elemental metal, just behind tungsten.
A heavy, third-row transition metal, rhenium is silvery-gray in appearance and similar in properties to the platinum group metals. It is used primarily in high-temperature superalloys that are needed to make jet engine parts, which use up to 70% of worldwide rhenium production. The refractory nature of this metal allows it to withstand the extremely high temperatures needed in jet engines. It is also found in high-performance fountain pen points and in superalloys with platinum, which are used to manufacture fuel cells for automotive exhaust systems.
As a pure metal, rhenium is inert at room temperature and only slowly oxidises to form the volatile heptoxide. It is soluble in water and alcohol and reacts with nitric acid. Rhenium is very rare in nature; it never occurs free or as a separate mineral, but is present in the by-product molybdenum sulphide concentrates extracted from copper porphyry ore bodies.
The majority of the world’s rhenium is produced as a by-product of nickel smelting and the extraction of molybdenum from its molybdenum sulphide ore, gadolinite. The primary source of rhenium is Chile, which accounts for the vast majority of the world’s supply (65%). It is also produced from scrap and spent superalloys.