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Zirconium - facts and fun by GETi.

Facts AND fun? I'm not so sure about the fun bit for this article. Having researched this on the internet all I seem to come across is a load of boring facts and figures, but here goes.


Zirconium - symbol : Zr, Periodic table number (just in case you haven't read this elsewhere and don't know!) : 40, Atomic weight : a nice trim, sexy 91.224 (what a girl !!). And that just about covers everything you need to know. So, how can I pad this out a bit and make it interesting? I could tell you what forms it is available in I suppose, again in case you don't know, as with Titanium, Zirconium is found in many forms including : 1] foil (a bit expensive for cooking the Christmas turkey though), 2] sponge, 3] rod, 4] sheet, 5] wire, 6] bar and 7] powder. Actually the powder form is probably the interesting one that many people see on various occasions throughout the year because Zirconium powder is a major component of modern day fireworks - not a lot of people know that.

OK what's next? Appearance : Zirconium is a greyish, white lustrous metal with all the same hypoallergenic qualities and space age applications as Titanium with one crazy advantage that sets it apart from any other metal in the fact that when it is heat treated, it forms a deep silky black oxide coating that is extremely scratch resistant. Although it is not exactly true to call it a coating, what actually happens is the surface of the metal transforms into a ceramic like material called Zirconia which has hardness equal to sapphire. An example of this heat treatment on Zirconium is in the medical industry. Zirconium knee replacements are heat treated to give them extra wear resistance and will outlast any joints made from other materials.

"Where is Zirconium found?" I hear you all screaming - well to put you out of your misery deposits are found in Australia, Brazil, India, Russia and the USA. If I have missed anybody out please accept my apologies. Also don't forget 'S' type stars and lunar rock samples, when analysed, were found to contain surprisingly high Zirconium oxide content. It has also been identified in the sun - don't ask me how, that was the first question that came into my mind as well !!

Uses for Zirconium : Components for nuclear reactors, fireworks as previously mentioned and jewellery. What do you mean jewellery? Well I'm glad you asked - the diamond simulant, Cubic Zirconia, or CZ, comes from Zirconium and also wedding and dress rings by GETi are made from Zirconium.

That just about wraps it up I'm afraid, What was that Skip? You want some more? OK - just a couple of snippets - Zirconium was discovered in 1789 by Martin Heinrich Klaproth and isolated in 1824 by Jons Jakob Berzelius. Pure Zirconium wasn't prepared until 1914 and when extracted it is a dark sooty powder. There you go - this should get you an 'A' in science, I'm off for a cup of tea.