Zirconium is a silvery transition metal with a good corrosion resistance, which is why it is often used in corrosive environments. Zirconium is a highly important element in nuclear energy. Without zirconium, there can be no nuclear energy. Apart from that, the metal has a good high-temperature strength and it is transparent to neutrons. Another element that is always found in zirconium ore is hafnium. Hafnium must be meticulously removed from zirconium that is used for nuclear reaction applications as hafnium strongly absorbs thermal neutrons.
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- Good deformability and ductility
- Good high-temperature strength
- Resistant to corrosion caused by fast-circulating coolants
- No formation of strong radioactive isotopes
- Resistant to mechanical damage caused by neutron bombardments
- In nuclear reactors for fuel rod cladding
- For the production of zirconium-uranium alloys
- For reactor core structures because of its unique combination of properties
- According to the Minerals Education Coalition, zirconium is also used in steel alloys, colored glazes/enamels, bricks, ceramics, abrasives, flash bulbs, lamp filaments, artificial gems, and some deodorants
- Zirconium-based alloys can also be found in tubes, lamp sockets, and heat exchangers
- Other applications where zirconium can be used are, e.g., catalysts, furnace bricks, lab crucibles, surgical instruments, television glass, for removing residual gases from vacuum tubes, and as a hardening agent in alloys such as steel.
- Zirconium carbonate is also used to treat poison ivy
The chemical resistance of zirconium
Zirconium is resistant to most organic and mineral acids. Typical usages for, e.g., seamless zirconium tubes (Zr702) are applications such as heat exchangers and duct systems for the production of urea, acetic acid, formic acid, and nitric acid, and chloride in its boiling state.