Zirconium is a chemical element with the symbol Zr and atomic number 40. Read the article to know some facts about Zirconium.

Zirconium Facts

Zirconium is a radiant, greyish-white, strong transition metal that resembles titanium. Taken from the mineral zircon, the word itself – zirconium – has been derived from a Persian word ‘zarkun’ which translates to ‘gold like’. Though sitting in the core of the earth for probably millions of years, it was first discovered in 1789 by Martin Heinrich Klaproth of Germany when it was brought to him from the islands of Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka. Today, however, it is not its pure form that is used, but its zirconium silicate form. With a high boiling and melting point of 4371°C and 1855°C respectively, zirconium is mainly used as a refractory and also as an opacifier. And for possessing anti-corrosion properties, it is small amounts of it are also used as alloying agents. This is not the end of it though, for this amazing metal possesses extraordinary qualities and is multi-purposeful. Continue reading through the next section to know about some more zirconium facts. 

Zirconium Facts
Name: Zirconium
Symbol: Zr
Atomic Number: 40
Atomic Mass: 91.224 amu
Melting Point: 1852.0 °C (2125.15 K, 3365.6 °F)
Boiling Point: 4371.0 °C (4650.15 K, 7910.6 °F)
Number of Protons/Electrons: 40
Number of Neutrons: 51
Classification: Transition Metal
Crystal Structure: Hexagonal
Density @ 293 K: 6.49 g/cm3
Colour: Greyish
Interesting Facts About Zirconium
  • Zirconium has been detected in sun and meteorites and is also found in abundance in S – type stars.
  • It is found, in zirconium silicate form, in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, India, Russia and the United States.
  • It was Jons Jakob Berzelius who first isolated zirconium by heating a mixture of potassium and potassium zirconium fluoride.
  • Zirconium is found more in lunar rocks samples than in terrestrial rocks.
  • Zirconium’s hardness is similar to that of copper. However, it is actually lighter than steel.
  • Zirconium, being a transition metal, is an excellent conductor of heat and fire. Malleability and ductility are also among its prominent features.
  • Zirconium’s atomic radius (pm) is 160 and it has an ionic radius of 790(+4e).
  • Zirconium, on the Pauling scale, possesses electronegativity of 1.33.
  • Zirconium has a hexagonal lattice structure, and a lattice constant of 3.230.
  • Its specific heat and fusion heat is 0.281 @20°C J/g mol and 19.2 (KJ/mol) respectively.
  • Powdered form of zirconium runs a high risk of catching fire. However, zirconium in solid form does not catch fire at high temperature.
  • If Zirconium is inhaled then it may cause skin and lung granulomas, a tumour caused by inflammation or infection. Skin and eye irritation can also creep up by coming in contact with this metal.
  • It reacts with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere. Its high reactivity towards oxygen at high temperatures helps in the application of this metal as explosive primer.
  • The procedure to remove nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen from zirconium is undertaken with utmost care.
  • Zirconium powder is used in modern day fireworks.
  • An alloy of zirconium, known as Baddeleyite, is also able to withstand high temperatures.
  • The commercially available zirconium contains between 1% and 3% hafnium, which is separated from zirconium for its use in nuclear reactors.
  • The Cubic Zirconia (CZ) is the source of the closest replica of diamond and it is popularly presented as a copy of diamond.
  • Zirconium is widely used in the working of nuclear reactors as the metal has low absorption of neutrons and significant resistant towards heat and chemical corrosion. It is estimated that about 90% of zirconium produced in a year is exploited by the nuclear power industry.
  • Zirconium oxide or zirconia, an inorganic metal oxide and a compound of zirconium, is mainly used in the manufacture of ceramic items.
  • A process called the Kroll process is applied to extract the metals from the zircon and baddeleyite minerals.
  • Zirconium is also used in making black zirconium rings, available in elegant and luxurious designs. These rings are scratch proof and do not easily sustain easy wear and tear.
  • Zirconium is used in vacuum tubes, different surgical appliances, lamp strands, pipes, artificial joints and limbs, photoflash bulbs, explosive primers, rayon spinnerets etc. It is also used as a common ingredient in antiperspirants.
  • Zirconium contains hafnium, which is known to absorb neutrons more easily and hence, zirconium has to be purified to make it hafnium free.
  • On an average, the human body contains only 1 milligram of zirconium.
  • Aquatic plants are known to readily absorb soluble form of zirconium. Its content in terrestrial plants is, however, low. 70% of plants have no zirconium content at all, while others have very little.
  • Apart from having a higher density and melting temperature, most of zirconium’s properties are similar to that of titanium.

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