What Are the Main Industrial Uses of Zircon?

Zircons are highly resistant to high temperatures and acid corrosion, and its melting can reach 2,750℃. 80% of the world’s zircons are used directly in the foundry, ceramics, glass, and refractories industries, while a small amount is used in ferroalloys, pharmaceuticals, paint, leather, abrasive, chemical, and nuclear industries. The main industrial uses of zircon are as follows.

Zircon sand

Zircon sand containing ZrO2 65~66% is directly used as casting material for the iron metal in foundry due to its melting resistance (melting point above 2500℃). Zircon sand has the lower thermal expansion, higher thermal conductivity, and stronger chemical stability than other common refractory materials, and high-quality zircon and other adhesives have a good bond and used in the foundry industry. Zircon sand is also used as bricks in glass kilns. Zircon sand and powder are mixed with other refractory materials for other purposes.

zircon-sand
Zircon-sand

Zirconium oxide

Zirconium and dolomite react together at high temperatures to produce zirconia or zirconium oxide (ZrO2). Zirconium oxide is also a good melting material, although its crystal shape varies with temperature. Stable zirconium oxide also contains small amounts of oxides of magnesium, calcium, scandium, or yttrium. The stable melting point of zirconium oxide is close to 2700℃, and it is more resistant to thermal shock than zirconium in some metallurgical applications. Stable zirconium oxide has low thermal conductivity, and the use of hafnium dioxide as fusible in industrial zirconium oxide is harmless.

Zirconium metal

Zirconium metal is mainly used in the chemical and nuclear reactor industries, as well as in other industries requiring corrosion resistance, high-temperature resistance, special fusion properties or special neutron absorption. In the United States, about 8% of the total consumption of zirconium metal is used in these industries, while the only meaningful application of the hafnium metal is in the nuclear reactors of warships.

zirconium-metal
Zirconium metal products

Zirconium metal is obtained by multistage extraction. Initially, zircon reacts with coke in an electric furnace to produce zirconium hydrocarbons and then chlorinates to produce zirconium tetrachloride. The magnesium reduction of the zirconium tetrachloride process involves the reduction of tetrachloride by placing magnesium metal in an inert gas to obtain spongy zirconium.

High purity zirconium metal can be refined by iodide thermal dissociation. In this process, metal and iodine vapors react at 200℃ and send volatile iodine to the connector, separating zirconium in the form of volatile iodine from most impurities. At about 1300℃, iodide is separated on a heated filament attached to highly purified zirconium. The released iodine is transferred from the filament, and the product is called a zirconium crystal rod.

Zirconium sponge

More than 90% of zirconium sponge is used as a zirconium-based alloy for structural and cladding materials in nuclear reactors. Zirconium is used in the chemical industry, pesticide industry, printing, and dyeing industry to manufacture corrosion-resistant reaction tower, pump, heat exchanger, valve, stirrer, nozzle, pipe, and container lining. It can also be used as a deoxidizing and denitrifying agent in the process of steelmaking and grain finisher of aluminum alloy. Zirconium wire can be used as grid support, cathode support and grid material, as well as air plasma cutting machine electrode head. Zirconium powder is mainly used as a deflagrant in the arms industry, a degassing agent in electronic devices, and it can also be used to make igniters, fireworks and flash powder.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality zirconium products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com for more information.

What are the uses of Zirconium in the Vacuum Industry?

As a rare metal, zirconium is widely used in the fields of aerospace, military industry, nuclear reaction and atomic energy due to its remarkable corrosion resistance, extremely high melting point, ultra-high hardness, and strength.

The surface of zirconium is easy to form a glossy layer of the oxide film, so its appearance is similar to that of steel. Zirconium is resistant to corrosion but dissolves in hydrofluoric acid and aqua regia, and it can react with non-metallic elements and many metallic elements to form the solid solution at high temperature. Zirconium has good plasticity and is easy to be processed into zirconium plate and zirconium wire. Besides that, zirconium can absorb a lot of gases such as oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen when heated, and can be used as hydrogen storage material. Zirconium and hafnium are two metals with similar chemical properties, which are symbiotic and contain radioactive materials.

Zirconium Rod

The zirconium can absorb nitrogen violently when the temperature exceeds 900 degrees Celsius. At 200 degrees Celsius, 100 grams of metal zirconium can absorb 817 liters of hydrogen, equivalent to more than 800,000 times the hydrogen absorption capacity of iron. This characteristic of zirconium has been widely used. In the electric vacuum industry, for example, zirconium powder is coated on the surfaces of the anodes and other heated parts of the electric vacuum elements and instruments to absorb the residual gas in the vacuum tube, thus making the vacuum tube and other vacuum instruments, which have better quality and longer service life.

Zirconium can also be used as a “Vitamin” in the metallurgical industry, playing a powerful role in deoxygenation, nitrogen removal, and sulfur removal. For example, if a thousandth of zirconium is added to steel, its hardness and strength will increase dramatically. Zirconium-containing armor steel, stainless steel, and heat-resistant steel are important materials for the manufacture of defense weapons such as armored vehicles, tanks, artillery and bulletproof panels. When zirconium is mixed into copper and drawn into copper wire, its electrical conductivity does not weaken but the melting point is greatly improved, so it is very suitable to be used as a high-voltage wire. Zinc-magnesium alloys containing zirconium, which are light and high temperature resistant, are twice as strong as conventional magnesium alloys and can be used in the manufacture of jet engine components.

Zirconium alloy is a nonferrous alloy which is composed of zirconium as the matrix and other elements are added, and the main alloy elements are tin, niobium, iron and so on. Zirconium alloys have good corrosion resistance, moderate mechanical properties, low atomic thermal neutron absorption cross-section and good compatibility with nuclear fuel in the high-pressure water and steam of 300 ~ 400 ℃, which is mainly used as core structure material of water-cooled nuclear reactor. Besides that, zirconium has excellent corrosion resistance to a variety of acids, bases, and salts, and has a strong affinity with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen, and they are also used in the manufacture of corrosion-resistant and pharmaceutical mechanical components, as well as the non-evapotranspiration disinfectant in the electric vacuum and light bulb industries.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality zirconium products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit http://www.samaterials.com for more information.