Zirconium


The zirconium-containing mineral zircon and related minerals (jargoon, hyacinth, jacinth, ligure) were mentioned in biblical writings but the mineral was not known to contain a new element until 1789 when Martin Heinrich Klaproth analyzed a jargoon from the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Zirconium metal was first obtained in an impure form in 1824 by Jöns Jacob Berzelius by heating a mixture of potassium and potassium zirconium fluoride in an iron tube.

The crystal bar process (also known as the Iodide Process), discovered in 1925, was the first industrial process for the commercial production of metallic zirconium. It involves the formation and subsequent thermal decomposition of zirconium tetraiodide, and was superseded in 1945 by the much cheaper Kroll process in which zirconium tetrachloride is reduced by magnesium.

Physical properties

A small fraction of zircon is converted to the metal, which finds various niche applications because of its excellent resistance to corrosion. It is a lustrous, grey-white, strong transition metal that closely resembles hafnium and, to a lesser extent, titanium.

Because zirconium is the element directly below titanium on the periodic table, it shares quite a few properties like extreme corrosion resistance, strength, and density which falls between the lightweight titanium and the heavier copper/brass/stainless steel. Unfortunately, the material is hard to work with on the machines so we rarely have a high quantity on hand.

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