Zirconium Facts

Zirconium Chemical & Physical Properties

Zirconium is a lustrous, corrosion-resistant grayish-white metal.
Zirconium is a lustrous, corrosion-resistant grayish-white metal. Dschwen, wikipedia.org

Zirconium is a gray metal that has the distinction of being the last element symbol, alphabetically, of the periodic table. This element finds use in alloys, particularly for nuclear applications. Here are more zirconium element facts:

Zirconium Basic Facts

Atomic Number: 40

Symbol: Zr

Atomic Weight: 91.224

Discovery: Martin Klaproth 1789 (Germany); zircon mineral is mentioned in biblical texts.

Electron Configuration: [Kr] 4d2 5s2

Word Origin: Named for the mineral zircon. Persian zargun: gold-like, which describes the color of the gemstone known as zircon, jargon, hyacinth, jacinth, or ligure.

Isotopes: Natural zirconium consists of 5 isotopes; 15 additional isotopes have been characterized.

Properties: Zirconium is a lustrous grayish-white metal. Finely-divided metal may ignite spontaneously in air, especially at elevated temperatures, but the solid metal is relatively stable. Hafnium is found in zirconium ores and is difficult to separate from zirconium. Commercial-grade zirconium contains from 1% to 3% hafnium. Reactor-grade zirconium is essentially free of hafnium.

Uses: Zircaloy(R) is an important alloy for nuclear applications. Zirconium has a low absorption cross section for neutrons, and is therefore used for nuclear energy applications, such as for cladding fuel elements. Zirconium is exceptionally resistant to corrosion by seawater and many common acids and alkalis, so it is used extensively by the chemical industry where corrosive agents are employed.

Zirconium is used as an alloying agent in steel, a getter in vacuum tubes, and as a component in surgical appliances, photoflash bulbs, explosive primers, rayon spinnerets, lamp filaments, etc. Zirconium carbonate is used in poison ivy lotions to combine with urushiol. Zirconium alloyed with zinc becomes magnetic at temperatures below 35°K.

Zirconium with niobium is used to make low temperature superconductive magnets. Zirconium oxide (zircon) has a high index of refraction and is used as a gemstone. The impure oxide, zirconia, is used for laboratory crucibles that will withstand heat shock, for furnace linings, and by the glass and ceramic industries as a refractory material.

Zirconium Physical Data

Element Classification: Transition Metal

Density (g/cc): 6.506

Melting Point (K): 2125

Boiling Point (K): 4650

Appearance: grayish-white, lustrous, corrosion-resistant metal

Atomic Radius (pm): 160

Atomic Volume (cc/mol): 14.1

Covalent Radius (pm): 145

Ionic Radius: 79 (+4e)

Specific Heat (@20°C J/g mol): 0.281

Fusion Heat (kJ/mol): 19.2

Evaporation Heat (kJ/mol): 567

Debye Temperature (K): 250.00

Pauling Negativity Number: 1.33

First Ionizing Energy (kJ/mol): 659.7

Oxidation States: 4

Lattice Structure: Hexagonal

Lattice Constant (Å): 3.230

Lattice C/A Ratio: 1.593


References: Los Alamos National Laboratory (2001), Crescent Chemical Company (2001), Lange's Handbook of Chemistry (1952), CRC Handbook of Chemistry & Physics (18th Ed.)


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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Zirconium Facts." ThoughtCo, Mar. 14, 2017, thoughtco.com/zirconium-facts-606622. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, March 14). Zirconium Facts. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/zirconium-facts-606622 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Zirconium Facts." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/zirconium-facts-606622 (accessed January 19, 2018).