What is Zirconium

Zirconium is a chemical element with symbol Zr and atomic number 40. The name of zirconium is taken from the name of the mineral zircon, the most important source of zirconium.

The word zircon comes from the Persian word zargun, meaning "gold-colored". It is a lustrous, grey-white, strong transition metal that resembles hafnium and, to a lesser extent, titanium.

Zirconium is mainly used as a refractory and opacifier, although small amounts are used as an alloying agent for its strong resistance to corrosion. Zirconium forms a variety of inorganic and organometallic compounds such as zirconium dioxide and zirconocene dichloride, respectively.

Five isotopes occur naturally, three of which are stable. Zirconium compounds have no known biological role.


Zirconium is a lustrous, greyish-white, soft, ductile and malleable metal that is solid at room temperature, though it is hard and brittle at lesser purities. In powder form, zirconium is highly flammable, but the solid form is much less prone to ignition. Zirconium is highly resistant to corrosion by alkalis, acids, salt water and other agents. However, it will dissolve in hydrochloric and sulfuric acid, especially when fluorine is present. Alloys with zinc are magnetic at less than 35 K.

The melting point of zirconium is 1855 °C (3371 °F), and the boiling point is 4371 °C (7900 °F). Zirconium has an electronegativity of 1.33 on the Pauling scale. Of the elements within d-block, zirconium has the fourth lowest electronegativity after yttrium, lutetium and hafnium.

At room temperature zirconium exhibits a hexagonally close packed crystal structure, α-Zr, which changes to β-Zr a body-centered cubic crystal structure at 863 °C. Zirconium exists in the β-phase until the melting point.

Materials fabricated from zirconium metal and ZrO2 are used in space vehicles where resistance to heat is needed. High temperature parts such as combustors, blades, and vanes in jet engines and stationary gas turbines are increasingly being protected by thin ceramic layers, usually composed of a mixture of zirconia and yttria.

Zirconium-bearing compounds are used in many biomedical applications, including dental implants, knee and hip replacements, middle-ear ossicular chain reconstruction, and other restorative and prosthetic devices.

Zirconium cyclosilicate is also under investigation for oral therapy in the treatment of hyperkalemia. It is a highly selective oral sorbent designed specifically to trap potassium ions in preference to other ions throughout the gastrointestinal tract.

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