What is Zirconium?
Zirconium is a transition metal and, along with titanium, is one of the few elements that have been known since antiquity. It’s silvery-white in colour, but when exposed to oxygen, it quickly develops a passivation layer and loses its lustre. The element has low toxicity and is often found as an ore called zircon (ZrO2). Due to its extremely high melting point and resistance to corrosion, it is widely used in aerospace engineering and nuclear power technology. Its malleability also makes it valuable in jewellery-making, where it can be alloyed with other metals for strength or polished for use as a gemstone. From medical implants to turbine blades, zirconium offers multitudinous advantageous properties, making it an indispensable part of modern industrial production.
Applications of Zirconium
Zirconium is a highly corrosion-resistant transition metal used in various medical, chemical, nuclear, and industrial applications. It is known for its low toxicity level and durability, which makes it the ideal material for producing radioactive fuel rods, implants for medical prostheses and cutting tools. Additionally, zirconium is widely used as an alloying agent because of its ability to form strong bonds with many metals like nickel or chromium. Furthermore, it can be found in various consumer products ranging from bicycles to kitchen appliances due to its lightweight yet strong nature. Overall, this versatile metal has numerous important uses that make our lives easier and safer.
Physical properties of Zirconium
Zirconium is a strong, corrosion-resistant metal with a high melting and boiling point. It has an electrical resistivity of about five microhm-cm, a high thermal conductivity of around 27W/m·K and a density of approximately 6.50 g/cm3.
Zirconium is a hard, grey and shiny metal and it has a flaky surface. Moreover, it has a black or bluish-black like powder. Zirconium is highly flammable in its powder form.
Additionally, the zirconium melting point is 1,857°C, i.e. 3,375°F. Its boiling point is 3,577°C, which is 6,471°F, and its density is 6.5 grams per cubic centimeter.
Furthermore, at room temperature, this metal displays a hexagonal close-packed crystal structure, i.e. α-Zr. At 863°C, this α-Zr structure converts to β-Zr and remains the same until it reaches its melting point.
Another significant physical property of Zirconium is that it is transparent to neutrons. Due to the transparent property, Zirconium is considered as one of the best materials for nuclear power plants.
Since most of the durable materials available on this planet will catch the passing neutron; thus, compounds that can let a neutron pass through, it is an ideal one for a nuclear power plant. Moreover, zircons will not remove any neutrons from a fission reaction.
Zircaloy, which is an alloy of zircon, has been developed for this purpose.
As mentioned above, zirconium has a high resistance to heat and corrosion.
Mechanical Properties of Zirconium
Zirconium is a strong, lightweight metal with good corrosion resistance and high strength-to-weight ratios. It's resistant to temperatures up to 1000 degrees C and has excellent mechanical properties such as low thermal expansion, high wear resistance, and superior metallurgical stability.
The ZR element is mostly an inactive element. If it is exposed to air, it will react with oxygen and produce a thin layer of zirconium oxide. This layer protects it from any further corrosion. Besides, zircon oxide does not react with water or acid. Additionally, it also does not react with any hot acids.
Chemical copmpsition of Zirconium
Zirconium is a grey-white, malleable, and ductile transition metal with an atomic number of 40. It is mainly composed of zirconium (90.5%) as well as hafnium (4-6%), thorium (0.2%), and other trace elements such as iron, nickel, chromium etc. Zirconium has many important medical applications, nuclear energy technologies and chemical production.
What is zirconium used for?
Zirconium is used for a variety of industrial and medical applications, such as nuclear reactor fuel cladding, chemical processing equipment, jewelry-making, dental implants, and drug delivery systems.
Is zirconium harmful to the body?
Zirconium is not generally considered harmful to the body in small amounts, but exposure to high levels can cause irritation and has been associated with adverse health effects.
Why is zirconium so expensive?
Zirconium is an incredibly rare and hard-to-find element, which makes it highly valuable and expensive. It can be used in various industrial, medical, and aerospace applications.
Is zirconium bullet proof?
No, zirconium is not bulletproof. It is very resistant to corrosion but typically has low strength and hardness properties, making it unsuitable for use as a protective material against bullets.