Zirconium is one of the six refractory metals that we stock here at Special Metals Fabrication (SMF) as welding manufacturers. There are many advantages offered by using zirconium (Zr) and parts made from that material. Below, we outline some of the qualities of zirconium, the benefits it offers in several sectors and the parts that we can provide to your business on request.
Zirconium is a lustrous, greyish-white metal which is ductile and malleable. As with our other refractory metals, zirconium has a high melting point (1855°C), making it an especially useful tool in certain high temperature environments compared to other more common metals. This utility is one of the main reasons for zirconium dioxide’s wide use in laboratory crucibles, metallurgical furnaces and other surgical instruments.
It also serves a purpose in the aerospace industry with high temperature parts such as combustors, blades, and vanes in jet engines often protected by thin ceramic layers made at least partly from zirconium.
Resistance to Corrosion and Electronic Structure
Zirconium is highly resistant to corrosion by various common acids and alkalis and the influence of salty sea water. This is especially important in situations where a material will be exposed to these corrosive agents for a prolonged period of time, such as in laboratory or marine environments.
It is for this reason that our zirconium parts are widely used in the chemical industry where such agents are very common, along with the nuclear power industry that uses nearly 90% of the zirconium produced each year. It is regularly used as cladding for nuclear reactor fuels, particularly in water reactors. However, this can be detrimental due to its reaction with water at high temperatures, leading to the production of hydrogen gas and degradation of the cladding.
The durability of zirconium-bearing compounds and their resistance to corrosion has also led to their use in many biomedical applications, including dental implants and crowns, knee and hip replacements and other restorative and prosthetic devices.
Properties at Extreme Temperatures
Zirconium super-conducts at low temperatures, making it magnetic at less than 35K (equivalent to the ultra-low temperature of -238.15°C). For this reason, along with niobium, zirconium alloys are often used to make superconductor magnets.
However, zirconium also displays desirable qualities at opposite extremes of temperature. Due to its high reactivity with oxygen at high temperatures, Zirconium is used as a ‘getter’ in vacuum tubes, in lamp filaments and in flash bulbs for photography. In more extreme circumstances, zirconium particles are also used in the arms industry in explosive weapons.
As you can see, zirconium’s niche applications make it a valuable resource that, as metal fabrication experts, we can supply to your specifications. Here at Special Metals Fabrication (SMF), we can supply and manufacture many parts and fittings suitable for the purposes above including zirconium bars, crucibles, plates, rods and sheets amongst others. Whatever your requirements, with our special metal welding, we will be able to meet your needs.