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Manganese. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/RHJPhtotos

Manganese: Definition, Properties, Uses, Benefits, and Limitations

Learn more about this versatile and widely-used element, including its unique chemical and physical properties that make it ideal for use in many industrial processes and applications, as well as its limitations related to cost, availability, and regulatory requirements.

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
May 6, 2023
 19 min read
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Manganese is a versatile and widely-used element that plays a critical role in many industrial processes and applications. As a transition metal, it has unique chemical and physical properties that make it ideal for use in a variety of alloys, including steel, aluminum, and copper. Its use as an alloying element or chemical compound in batteries, as well as its use in electronics, has also grown in recent years, thanks to its ability to provide long-lasting power and durability. 

However, the use of manganese is not without its challenges. Ensuring the quality and consistency of manganese materials in 3D printing applications, for example, can be difficult due to issues related to cost, availability, and regulatory requirements. In this article, we will explore the many uses, benefits, and limitations of manganese. By examining the key features and issues related to manganese, we can gain a deeper understanding of its importance and explore new opportunities for sustainable use and innovation in the future.

What Is Manganese?

Manganese is a chemical element with the symbol Mn and atomic number 25. It is a hard, gray-white metal found naturally in combination with other elements. In terms of its physical and chemical characteristics, it is generally comparable to iron, but it is harder and more brittle. It is found in several major types of geological deposits, the most significant of which are the minerals pyrolusite and romanechite, both of which are forms of manganese dioxide (MnO2). Another form of manganese is what’s called manganese nodules, which are found on the sea floor. Manganese is a transition metal and is classified as a reactive metal, meaning it readily forms compounds with other elements.

What Is the Importance of Manganese?

Manganese is an important element with a wide range of industrial and biological applications. Here are some key reasons why manganese is important:

  1. Steel Production: Used as an alloying element in steel production to improve the strength, and hardness of steel. It is a key component in the production of high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) steels, which are widely used in the construction and transportation industries.  
  2. Batteries: Used in the production of batteries, particularly alkaline batteries and lithium-ion batteries. Manganese dioxide is a common component of alkaline batteries, while lithium-manganese oxide is used in the cathodes of some lithium-ion batteries.
  3. Ceramics: Used as a pigment to stain clay. It can be used to create a range of pigments, including black, brown, and purple. 
  4. Fertilizers: Is often added to fertilizers to improve crop yields.
  5. Health: Plays a key role in several biological processes, including bone development, metabolism, and the production of connective tissue.

What Is the History of Manganese?

Manganese has played a significant role in human history since its discovery as an element in 1771 by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele. In 1774, J.G. Gahn became the first person to isolate manganese, which led to further experimentation and research into its properties. By 1799, patents had been granted in the United Kingdom for using manganese in steelmaking. The early 1800s saw continued innovation and development in this field.

Industrial-scale production of "spiegeleisen", a pig iron containing a high percentage of manganese, began in 1841. This type of iron was crucial for the burgeoning steel industry, which was just getting started in the mid-1800s. Finally, in 1875, commercial production of ferromanganese with a 65% manganese content started, cementing manganese's place as a critical component in steel production. Today, manganese continues to be an important element in numerous industrial applications, including steelmaking, batteries, and fertilizers.

What Is Manganese Made Of?

Manganese is a chemical element with the symbol Mn and atomic number 25. It is a hard, gray-white metal that is found naturally in combination with other elements, such as iron and oxygen, in minerals like pyrolusite, rhodonite, and braunite, among others. 

How Is Manganese Made?

Manganese ores are often mined in open pits. There are also a number of procedures for mining seabed manganese nodules, but they are not able to compete commercially with high-grade terrestrial deposits that are already being exploited. After mining the manganese-containing ore, the manganese must be  extracted and refined. Manganese can be produced by several methods, including: 

  1. Hydrometallurgical Processes: These involve the use of chemical reactions to extract manganese from ores or other sources. One common method is leaching, in which an acid or alkali is used to dissolve the manganese from the ore or material. The resulting solution is then treated to recover the manganese.
  2. Electrolytic Processes: These involve passing an electric current through a solution containing manganese ions, causing them to migrate to the electrodes and deposit as metal. This method is typically used for producing high-purity manganese for applications such as batteries and electronics.
  3. Smelting Processes: These involve the reduction of manganese oxides with a reducing agent, such as carbon or aluminum, in a furnace. Ferromanganese and silicomanganese are typically produced through smelting processes. These alloys are used primarily as raw materials in the production of steel, as they impart desirable properties such as hardness, strength, and resistance to wear and corrosion.

What Is the Color of Manganese?

The pure form of manganese metal is a silvery-gray color, similar to other metals such as steel or aluminum. However, manganese is also found in a variety of minerals, some of which can have distinct colors. For example:

  1. Pyrolusite: Typically black or dark gray in color.
  2. Rhodonite: Pink to red in color and is often used as a gemstone or decorative stone.
  3. Braunite: Usually black or dark brown in color.
  4. Manganite: Typically black or dark brown in color, but can sometimes have a reddish tint.
  5. Hausmannite: Typically dark brown or black, but can sometimes be reddish-brown.

What Does Manganese Look Like?

Pure manganese metal has a silvery-gray color and is typically found in the form of ingots or blocks. It is a hard, brittle metal that is difficult to work with at room temperature but can be easily machined when heated.

What Are the Properties of Manganese?

Some of the physical properties of manganese are listed in Table 1 below:

Table 1. Physical Properties of Manganese
PropertyManganeseManganese (II) ChlorideManganese Sulfate
Property
Molecular weight (g/mol)
Manganese
54.94
Manganese (II) Chloride
125.85
Manganese Sulfate
151
Property
Color
Manganese
Metallic gray
Manganese (II) Chloride
Pink
Manganese Sulfate
Red
Property
Melting point (°C)
Manganese
1,246
Manganese (II) Chloride
650
Manganese Sulfate
700
Property
Boiling point (°C)
Manganese
2061
Manganese (II) Chloride
1412
Manganese Sulfate
850
Property
Density @20°C (g/cm3)
Manganese
7.26
Manganese (II) Chloride
2.325
Manganese Sulfate
3.25

Table Credit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

What Are the Chemical Properties of Manganese?

Here are some of the key chemical properties of manganese:

  1. Reactivity: Radily reacts with oxygen to form various oxides, including manganese dioxide (MnO2), manganese trioxide (Mn2O3), and manganese heptoxide (Mn2O7). 
  2. Valence: Has multiple oxidation states, or valences, ranging from -3 to +7. The most common oxidation states for manganese are +2, +3, +4, and +7.
  3. Electronegativity: Has a relatively high electronegativity, meaning it attracts electrons towards itself in chemical reactions.
  4. Solubility: Manganese compounds can be soluble or insoluble, depending on their specific chemical properties. For example, manganese dioxide is insoluble in water, while manganese sulfate is highly soluble.
  5. Complex formation: Can form complex compounds with a variety of ligands, such as water, ammonia, and various organic molecules. These complexes can have unique properties that make them useful in various applications.

What Are the Physical Properties of Manganese?

Here are some of the key physical properties of manganese:

  1. Appearance: Pure manganese metal has a silvery-gray color and is typically found in the form of ingots or blocks.
  2. Density: The density of manganese is relatively high, at 7.26 g/cm³. This means that it is heavy and has a high mass per unit volume.
  3. Melting and Boiling Points: The melting point of manganese is 1,246 °C and its boiling point is 2,061 °C.
  4. Hardness: Manganese is a relatively hard metal, with a Mohs hardness of 6.0. This means that it is harder than most other metals, but not as hard as a diamond or some other minerals.
  5. Magnetic Properties: Manganese is not typically magnetic, but it can become magnetic when exposed to strong magnetic fields.

What Are Some Uses and Applications of Manganese?

Manganese is a versatile metallic element that is used in a variety of industrial applications. Some of these applications are listed and discussed in the sections below:

1. Steel

The largest use of manganese is the production of steel. It is added to all commercial steels with the primary role of deoxidation/desulfurization, where MnS is formed instead of FeS. Manganese is also added to steel as an alloying agent to improve its strength, toughness, and resistance to wear and corrosion. It also increases the metals’ hardenability. Manganese steel, also known as Hadfield steel, is high-manganese, austenitic steel that is particularly well-suited for applications where impact resistance and durability are important, such as in mining equipment, railroad tracks, and construction machinery.

2. Batteries

Manganese is used in the production of a variety of batteries, including alkaline batteries, zinc-carbon batteries, and lithium-ion batteries. In alkaline batteries, manganese dioxide is used as a cathode material, while in zinc-carbon batteries, manganese dioxide is used as a depolarizer. In lithium-ion batteries, manganese is often used in combination with other metals, such as cobalt and nickel, to form the cathode.

3. Resistors

Manganese is used in the production of certain types of resistors, which are electrical components that limit the flow of current in a circuit. Manganese dioxide is mixed with carbon to form a resistive material that is used in these resistors. The amount of manganese dioxide in the resistor determines the resistance value, which can range from a few ohms to several megaohms.

4. Aluminum Alloys

Manganese plays a role in many modern aluminum alloys. When added to aluminum, manganese improves its strength, toughness, and resistance to corrosion. Manganese-containing aluminum alloys are commonly used in the automotive industry, where they are used to make engine blocks, transmission components, and other parts that require high strength and durability.

How Can Manganese Be Used as a 3D Printing Material?

Manganese has not yet been widely used as a 3D printing material compared to other metals like titanium, aluminum, and steel. However, there are ongoing research and development efforts exploring the potential use of manganese in 3D printing applications.

One of the main challenges with using manganese in 3D printing is its high melting point, which makes it difficult to print using traditional 3D printing methods like FDM or SLS. However, new techniques like binder jetting and PBF have shown promising results in printing high-melting-point metals like manganese.

Manganese, as an alloying element, has several properties that make it an attractive material for 3D printing, including its high strength and hardness. It is also lightweight and has good thermal conductivity, making it suitable for various applications in industries like aerospace, automotive, and electronics.

What Is the Role of Manganese in 3D Printing?

Manganese is not used for 3D printing in its pure form, but could potentially play a role as an alloying element in raw 3D printing materials for some applications. Here are a few possible roles that manganese could play in 3D printing:

  1. Strengthening Alloys: Manganese is often used as an alloying element in steel, aluminum, and other metals to improve their strength, toughness, and corrosion resistance. By adding small amounts of manganese to 3D printing materials, it could be possible to produce parts with improved mechanical properties.
  2. Lightweighting: Manganese-aluminum alloys are lightweight and have good strength-to-weight ratios. These alloys could be used to produce lightweight parts for the aerospace and automotive industries. It could be possible to further reduce the weight of these parts without sacrificing strength by using 3D printing to produce complex geometries.
  3. Thermal Management: Manganese has high thermal conductivity, which makes it useful for creating parts that require effective thermal management. For example, 3D-printed heat exchangers or other thermal management components may benefit from the use of manganese or manganese alloys.

How Is the Quality of a Manganese 3D Printed Material?

Manganese is not a commonly used material in 3D printing, but it has the potential to play a role in certain applications as an alloying element. The quality of a manganese 3D-printed material will depend on several factors, including: the printing process, the quality of the raw material, and the properties of the final product. Different 3D printing processes have different strengths and weaknesses, and the quality of the final product can vary depending on the process used. Raw material quality is also a significant factor that can influence the properties of the printed material. Manganese's relatively hard and brittle nature, coupled with its high melting and boiling points, means that it can be challenging to print effectively. However, by alloying manganese with other metals, such as aluminum, it may be possible to improve aluminum’s mechanical properties and stability during printing. 

How Does the Availability of Manganese Impact Its Use in 3D Printing?

The availability of manganese can impact its use in 3D printing because the cost and accessibility of the material can affect its adoption and commercial viability. If manganese is widely available and affordable, it can be used more easily in 3D printing applications. However, if there are shortages or limited availability, the cost of manganese may increase, making it less competitive with other 3D printing materials. In addition, limited availability may lead to challenges in maintaining consistent quality and quantity of manganese for 3D printing.

Although the availability of manganese is a factor that can impact its use in 3D printing, it is not the only consideration. The suitability of the material for a particular application, its mechanical properties, and the cost of production are all important factors that must be taken into account when considering manganese as a 3D printing material.

What Challenges Exist When Using Manganese in 3D Printing?

3D printing of manganese is so difficult that there are no commercial 3D printing materials made of pure manganese. 3D printing materials include manganese only as an alloying element. Some of the challenges in 3D printing pure manganese include:

  1. Melting Point: Manganese has a relatively high melting point of 1,246 °C, which can make it challenging to print using some 3D printing methods. Achieving proper fusion of the material can be difficult due to the high energy input needed to melt manganese.
  2. Oxidation: Manganese is prone to oxidation, which can lead to poor surface finish and a decrease in mechanical properties.
  3. Cost: Manganese is not used in 3D printing as other metals, such as titanium and aluminum. This limited use can result in higher production costs, which can make it less competitive with other materials for certain applications.
  4. Material Properties: Manganese is a relatively hard and brittle metal, which may not be suitable for all applications. It may be necessary to alloy it with other metals to improve its mechanical properties, which can add complexity to the production process.

What Is the Largest Industrial Use of Manganese?

The largest industrial use of manganese is in steelmaking, where it is added to iron to improve the properties of the resulting steel. It is added to all steel in small amounts for deoxidation and substitution of MnS for FeS. Manganese enhances the strength, toughness, and hardenability of steel, while also reducing its brittleness and improving its resistance to corrosion. Manganese is added to steel in various forms, including ferromanganese, silicomanganese, and spiegeleisen, depending on the specific properties desired. It is estimated that over 90% of global manganese consumption is used in the steel industry. Other industrial uses of manganese include the production of batteries, ceramics, fertilizers, and various chemical compounds.

What Is the Amount of Manganese Present in the Earth's Crust?

Manganese is the 12th most abundant element in the Earth's crust, with an estimated crustal abundance of around 0.1%. It occurs in about 300 different minerals, with global reserves of about 630 million metric tons. 

How Does the Cost and Availability of Manganese Compare to That of Other Metals?

In terms of cost, manganese is generally less expensive than other common metals like nickel, cobalt, and copper. However, its cost can still be significant, especially when compared to other abundant metals like aluminum or iron.

As for availability, manganese is widely distributed throughout the Earth's crust and is relatively abundant, with estimated global reserves of around 630 million metric tons. This makes it more readily available than some other metals, such as cobalt or lithium, which are often found in more limited quantities. However, the availability of manganese can still be impacted by factors such as geopolitical risks, environmental regulations, and mining and production costs.

How Does Manganese Affect the Properties of Materials When Added?

Manganese can have significant effects on the properties of materials when added in small amounts. The specific effects depend on the material and the amount of manganese added, but some general trends can be observed as listed below:

  1. Increased Strength: Manganese can increase the strength and hardness of materials, particularly in steel alloys. This is because manganese forms strong bonds with iron and helps stabilize the crystal structure of the material.
  2. Improved Ductility: While manganese can increase the strength of materials, it can also help improve their ductility or ability to deform without breaking. This is because manganese helps reduce the formation of brittle phases in the material.
  3. Enhanced Corrosion Resistance: Manganese can also improve the corrosion resistance of materials, particularly in stainless steel alloys. This is because manganese forms a protective oxide layer on the surface of the material that helps prevent corrosion.
  4. Increased Hardness: Manganese can also increase the hardness of materials, specifically iron, making them more resistant to wear and tear. This is particularly important in high-stress applications where materials are subject to heavy loads and friction.

What Are the Benefits of Manganese?

Manganese has several benefits and uses across various industries and applications. Some of the key benefits of manganese include:

  1. Strong and Tough Steel: Manganese improves the strength and toughness of steel, making it ideal for use in industrial equipment and infrastructure.
  2. Health Benefits: Manganese is an essential nutrient for humans, supporting healthy bone development, wound healing, and metabolism. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant and has been linked to lower rates of chronic diseases such as osteoporosis and diabetes.
  3. Improved Crop Yields: Manganese improves the health and growth of plants, leading to higher crop yields and better resistance to disease.
  4. Versatile Industrial Applications: Manganese has a wide range of industrial applications, including the production of alloys, ceramics, glass, and pigments.

What Are the Limitations of Manganese?

While manganese has numerous benefits and applications, there are also some limitations to its use. Here are a few examples:

  1. Toxicity: While manganese is an essential nutrient for humans, exposure to high levels of manganese can be toxic and lead to neurological damage, more specifically a disease called manganism. Workers in manganese mining and processing industries are at particular risk for this type of exposure.
  2. Availability: While manganese is a relatively abundant element in the Earth's crust, high-quality, economically viable deposits can be geographically concentrated, making it difficult and expensive to extract in some regions.
  3. Brittleness: While manganese can increase the strength and hardness of steel, too much of it can make the steel brittle and difficult to work with.
  4. Environmental Impact: Manganese mining and production can have environmental impacts, including water and soil pollution, deforestation, and the release of greenhouse gasses. Proper waste management and sustainable mining practices are necessary to mitigate these impacts.

Are There Any Regulatory Requirements or Restrictions When Using Manganese?

Yes, there are regulatory requirements and restrictions when using manganese, as it is a potentially hazardous material. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for manganese in the workplace to protect workers from harmful exposure levels. The PEL for manganese is 5 milligrams per cubic meter of air (5 mg/m3), which can not be exceeded at any time. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH’s) recommended limit for airborne exposure is an average of 1 mg/m3 over a 10-hour work shift, with a maximum allowable limit of 3 mg/m3 during any 5-minute work period.

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the discharge of manganese in wastewater and sets limits on the levels that can be present in drinking water. The recommended health advisory threshold for manganese in drinking water is set at 0.3 mg/L (milligrams per liter), and a secondary guideline of 0.05 mg/L is established to address aesthetic concerns related to drinking water quality. 

Is Manganese Stronger Than Metal?

It depends. Manganese is often used as an alloying element to improve the strength and other properties of other metals, particularly steel. However, the strength of an alloy depends on the specific composition of the alloy, and there may be other metals or alloys that are stronger than one containing manganese. Manganese steel has a hardness rating that can approach 600 BHN, making it nearly three times as hard as annealed stainless steel and about five times as hard as mild steel. For more information, see our guide on Metal.

Does Manganese Rust?

No, manganese itself does not rust, as rusting is a term specifically used for the corrosion of iron and its alloys. However, manganese can oxidize when exposed to air and moisture, forming a layer of manganese oxide on its surface. This layer can provide some protection against further corrosion, similar to the way aluminum is protected, or stainless steel is. However, if the oxide layer is damaged or compromised, the underlying manganese can still corrode. 

Is Manganese the Same as Magnesium

No, manganese and magnesium are two distinct chemical elements with different properties and uses. Manganese (Mn) is a transition metal with atomic number 25, while magnesium (Mg) is an alkaline earth metal with atomic number 12.

While both manganese and magnesium are used in various industrial applications, they have different properties and uses. For example, manganese is commonly used as an alloying element in steel and aluminum alloys to improve their strength and corrosion resistance properties, while magnesium is often used in alloys to reduce weight and improve their strength-to-weight ratio. 

Summary

This article presented manganese, explained what it is, and discussed its various properties and benefits. To learn more about manganese, contact a Xometry representative.

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Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.