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Fact Sheet 2009-3106

USGS Mineral Resources Program

Molybdenum—A Key Component of Metal Alloys

By S.J. Kropschot

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Molybdenum, whose chemical symbol is Mo, was first recognized as an element in 1778. Until that time, the mineral molybdenite—the most important source of molybdenum—was believed to be a lead mineral because of its metallic gray color, greasy feel, and softness. In the late 19th century, French metallurgists discovered that molybdenum, when alloyed (mixed) with steel in small quantities, creates a substance that is remarkably tougher than steel alone and is highly resistant to heat. The alloy was found to be ideal for making tools and armor plate. Today, the most common use of molybdenum is as an alloying agent in stainless steel, alloy steels, and superalloys to enhance hardness, strength, and resistance to corrosion.

March 5, 2010

For additional information contact:

Mineral Resources Program Coordinator
U.S. Geological Survey
MS 913, National Center
Reston, Virginia 20192

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Suggested citation:

Kropschot, S.J., 2010, Molybdenum—A key component of metal alloys: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2009–3106, 2 p., available at

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