Since the discovery of chromium ore in 1798, chromium has been widely used in the chemical, leather tanning, and pigment industries. Aluminothermic chromium metal was first produced in the early 20th Century; electrolytic grades soon followed. Chromium metal is stable under normal conditions, insoluble in water, resistant to chemical corrosion, and, unlike many industrial materials, may be safely and easily handled without special precautions.
Chromium metal quickly became an indispensable ingredient in various industrial materials because of its unique characteristics. Examples of these applications include stainless steel, super alloys, aluminum alloys, and electronics. High grade stainless steels, made possible by additions of chromium metal, are essential to the safe and environmentally sound operation of chemical plants, nuclear power generation facilities, food processing operations, and other critical industries. Chromium metal is also a fundamental ingredient in various types of super alloys which are essential to the aerospace and nuclear power industries. Recently, chromium metal ion plating has become an environmentally sound alternative to traditional chromium plating methods.
The electronics industry deserves special note wherein chromium metal demonstrates outstanding properties as a thin film material. Chromium metal has become indispensable in the production of computer hard disks (both as an underlayer and as a constituent of the magnetic memory media), photo masks, integrated circuits, and liquid crystal displays.
These new and evolving applications have lead to strict and diverse quality requirements for chromium metal. Also, since chromium metal is one of the most difficult materials to refine, the properties and uses of high purity chromium metal have not been fully explored. High purity chromium metal has a great potential for previously undiscovered applications. Recently, a research program to develop the "ultimate super alloy" using high purity chromium metal was initiated.