Manganese is used in many industrial metallurgical processes. It is of particular importance in the creation of alloys of steel and aluminum, but the uses of manganese extend to other industrial areas outside of metallurgy. Manganese is important in nutrition, as well. The human body does not require much of this element, but several biological uses of manganese are critical to the proper functioning of the body, and it is often included in small doses in mineral supplements.
The most significant of all the industrial uses of manganese is steel production which uses more than 85% of all manganese mined. Manganese can be used in several different alloying processes to improve the durability of steel. The ore is particularly useful in increasing steel’s resistance to oxidation, so manganese is often used to make stainless steel. The addition of manganese to steel can also improve the overall strength and workability of the material. Hadfield Steel is one example of a mixture of steel and manganese, and is known for both these properties.
Other metals can be alloyed with manganese as well. Alloys of aluminum and manganese are quite common. Manganese bolsters the resistance of aluminum to corrosion, and alloys containing around 1% manganese are commonly used. The aluminum cans familiar to most beverage consumers are produced with just such an alloy.
Industrial chemistry employs manganese, as well. Common uses of manganese in this field revolve around its usefulness as a pigment. Pigments with earth tones often contain manganese. It can be used to produce similar shades when added to bricks.
Disposable alkaline batteries frequently use manganese. The manganese is the cathode in these batteries. Other minerals can be used for this purpose, but the cost and chemical properties of manganese make it a very common choice.
There are a number of biological and biochemical uses of manganese. The vast majority of organisms employ manganese in only trace amounts in biological processes. The human body is no exception to this rule.
Manganese seems to be particularly important for the proper functioning of enzymes. These enzymes have a variety of different functions. Some aid in repairing damage to the body. Others are antioxidants. Additional enzymes make use of manganese to aid in the development of strong and healthy bones.
Given the number of uses of manganese within the human body, it is often included in mineral supplements. Small supplemental doses of manganese are either beneficial or harmless. The body is not equipped to process great amounts of this mineral, however, and in larger doses manganese can be toxic.