Brief Introduction of Zirconium and Zirconium Ore


Zirconium is a type of argenteous transition metal, which is also a kind of chemical element that the chemical symbol is Zr and the atomic number is 40. Its outer surface is like steel, covered by dense oxide layer under normal temperature which gives no harm to the metallic luster, except that the zirconium powder is dark grey. Zirconium metal, the melting point is 1852°C and the density is 6.49 g/cm³, with a corrosion resistance which is even not soluble in hydrofluoric acid and aqua regia while it can react with nonmetallic elements and many metal elements to generate solid solution of compound in high temperature. With a good plasticity, zirconium is easy to be processed into plate, wire, etc. When heated, zirconium can absorb a large number of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and other gases. Therefore, it can be used as hydrogen storage material. The corrosion resistance of zirconium is preferable to titanium, close to niobium, tantalum. Zirconium and hafnium are similar taken into account their chemical history, and they symbiosis together, containing radioactive substance. The zirconium content in the Earth’s crust is ranking the 20th, almost equal with chromium. Minerals containing zirconium with commercial value in the nature basically are zircon and baddeleyite.

The Usage of Zirconium

The thermal neutron in zirconium has outstanding nuclear performance, for it has a small capture cross section, which is indispensable to develop atomic energy industry for being used as the reactor core structural material. Zirconium powder easily burns in the air, so it can be invoked as primer detonator and smokeless gunpowder. Zirconium can be used as an additive for high quality steel deoxidizing and desulphurizing, and also a component in artillery, armored steel, stainless steel and heat resistant steel. Zirconium is a major alloy element of magnesium alloy, which can improve the tensile strength of magnesium alloy, as well as the processing performance. Zirconium is also a modifier of aluminium magnesium alloy, as it can refine grain. Zirconium dioxide and zircon are the most valuable refractory compounds: zirconium dioxide is the main material of a new type of ceramic which also can be used as high temperature oxidation resistance heating material, and as a kind of acid additive to enamel, glass, it can significantly increase the elasticity, chemical stability and heat resistance of glass. Zircon has a strong performance on light reflection and good thermal stability, can be used for sunscreen in the ceramics and glass. Zirconium can absorb large amount of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and other gases when heated, making it an ideal getter, such like using zirconium metal powder as degassing agent in evacuated tubes and zirconium silk and zirconium for grid frame, anode bracket, etc.

Zirconia Ceramics

Precision zirconia ceramic having electrical insulating properties, piezoelectric properties, heat resistance, high hardness and abrasion resistance characteristics, can be used as electrical ceramics, artificial bone, artificial teeth and the immobilized catalyst carrier, therefore, it is a rookie in the material family. Tough zirconia ceramics, its creep strength can be comparable to high-intensitive alloy steel, can be used for ceramic hammer, scissors and knives, and ceramic scissors. Ceramic scissors are very sharp, non-magnetic, suitable for editing audio and video tapes. Ceramic kitchen knife is suitable for cutting cooked food, and it won’t leave an iron smell on food. Partially stabilized zirconia ceramics with high hardness can be utilized for the production of wear parts, such as nozzles, spiral trachea, extrusion, and wire die and so on.

The kingdom of zirconium mine——Australia

Australia is rich in mineral resources. Among them, zircon reserves rank the top of the world, with its output accounting for about 80% of world production. Zircon mining industry occupies an important position in the domestic mining industry, mainly in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland. Australia is the biggest supplier of zirconium in the world. The principal trade partners are UK, USA, Japan, Germany and Canada.