Zirconium is a good choice for a wide range of applications. It’s one of the most abundant metal elements on the Earth – with more than 1.5 tonnes mined every year – and it has many useful properties. But is it the right metal for you? It’s important to do a little research into what zirconium has to offer and, if you’re still unsure, the team at Special Metals are always happy to help.
Here we outline some of the main benefits of zirconium and explore how it could be of use to you.
Zirconium metal has a low neutron-capture cross-section. It may sound very complex, but essentially, this means that it can’t absorb many neutrons. It’s why zirconium is often employed within the nuclear industry. Used to create the cladding (or outer cover) for cylindrical fuel rods, it allows high-energy neutrons to freely interact with the fuel and helps to sustain the chain reaction.
When exposed to air, zirconium becomes highly reactive and develops a thin oxide layer. This oxide layer is very beneficial. It stabilises the metal and makes it extremely resistant to corrosion by acids and alkalis. As a result, zirconium is regularly used in the chemical industry and as an alloying agent for materials that are exposed to corrosive agents (e.g. surgical appliances, light filaments).
High melting point
Zirconium only melts at around 1855°C. Compared to other metals, this is exceptionally high – and it’s a very useful property for high-temperature applications. For example, zirconium is often used in space and aeronautics to make parts such as combustors and blades. It’s also commonly employed as a furnace lining and, within the ceramics industry, to create effective ceramic crucibles.
Zirconium demonstrates very low toxicity. It’s well-tolerated within the body and has no allergic effects – for this reason, it can be used for a range of cosmetic and bioidentical applications. These applications include dental implants and crowns, knee and hip replacement surgery, middle-ear ossicular chain reconstruction surgery and various other prosthetic devices.
Ductile and malleable
In its purest form, zirconium metal is soft, ductile, and malleable. It’s, therefore, an ideal option for metal work. Not only can it be drawn out into a thin wire, but it can also be hammered or pressed into any shape (without breaking, cracking or losing its strength). That’s why, here at Special Metals, we’re able to offer a range of zirconium parts and fittings – including bars, crucibles, plates, rods and sheets.
Find out more about zirconium and its uses
Choosing the ideal metal for your project can be tricky and it’s always worth doing your groundwork. If you’re still unsure about zirconium metal, why not get in touch? Special Metals is a leading supplier of zirconium metal and we can advise on whether it’s the best refractory metal for you and your application.