Rhenium was discovered by the German chemists Ida Tacke-Noddack, Walter Noddack and Otto Carl Berg in 1925. They detected rhenium spectroscopically in platinum ores and in the minerals columbite, gadolinite and molybdenite. In 1928, Noddack and Berg were able to extract 1 gram of rhenium from 660 kilograms of molybdenite. Today, rhenium is obtained as a by-product of refining molybdenum and copper.
Its name is derived from Rhenus, the Latin name for the Rhine.
- A metal with a very high melting point, second only to tungsten.
- Usually available as a grey powder.
- One of the rarest metals on Earth.
- Filaments for mass spectrographs.
- Photographic flash lamps.
- Added to tungsten and molybdenum-based alloys to impart useful properties such as wear resistance.
- Also used as an electrical contact material as it has good wear resistance and withstands arc corrosion.
- Rhenium catalysts are exceptionally resistant to poisoning and are used for the hydrogenation of fine chemicals.
Rhenium is recovered from applications like super-alloy turbine blades used in the aviation industry.