Zirconium is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 40 and with the chemical symbol Zr. This chemical element belongs to period 5 elements and the Transition Metals category. Similar to the rest of the Transition Metal elements Zirconium possesses various metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Zirconium is preceded by Yttrium and is followed by Niobium.
Zirconium is among the strongest metallic elements in the Periodic Table and is noteworthy resistant to corrosion. It is a lustrous metallic element, which resembles the properties of other Transition Metals and is valued for its strength and resistivity. Zirconium does not play any known biological roles to human beings or other living organisms on Earth. It is mainly used as an opacifier, as a refractory, and as an alloy component. It is extracted from the silicate mineral zircon (and was named after it) and is also found in some S-type stars and the Moon’s crust, as well as in the Earth’s crust and seawater.
Physical Characteristics of Zirconium
In terms of physical characteristics the element Zirconium shares some group trends with the rest of the Transition Metals in the Periodic Table. Similarly to Titanium, Zirconium is an extremely strong and resistant metallic element and it is highly valued for these two properties. It appears as a greyish to white solid element with a metallic luster. However, it becomes quite brittle and is extremely flammable in powdered form. Zirconium is soluble in sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid. Its electronegativity is the lowest one among the d-block chemical elements. The melting and boiling points of Zirconium are relatively high – 2128 K and 4650 K in their respective order. This element crystalizes in a typical hexagonal close-packed crystal structure, but changes to a body-centered cubic one at higher temperatures.
Chemical Properties of Zirconium
Atomic Number – 40
Group – 4
Period – 5
Block – d
Electronic Configuration – 4d2 5s2
Relative Atomic Mass – 91.224 (91.224 g/mol)
Molecular Weight – 91.224
Electronegativity – 1.33
Density (G CM-3) – 6.52 g/cm3 at room temperature; 5.8 g/cm3 in liquid state
Melting Point – 2128 K; 1855 °C; 3371 °F
Boiling Point – 4650 K; 4377 °C; 7911 °F
Atomic Radius – 160 pm
Isotopes – 5
Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 10, 2
Discovery of Zirconium
Zircon and various other minerals containing Zircon have been known to mankind for millennia. They have been mentioned even in biblical writings. However, the element Zirconium was firstly discovered by a German chemist, named Martin Heinrich Klaproth, back in 1789. Klaproth analyzed a sample of the mineral Jargoon and decided to name the newly discovered chemical element Zirkonerde (or Zirconia) after the zircon mineral. The word “zircon” actually means “gold-colored” from Persian.
The first isolation of Zirconium – relatively impure – was carried out in 1824 by a Swedish chemist, named Jöns Jacob Berzelius.
Recognized by: Martin Heinrich Klaproth (1789)
Known and discovered by: Martin Heinrich Klaproth (1879)
Named by: Martin Heinrich Klaproth (1879)
Uses and role of Zirconium
Zirconium does not play any known biological role for human beings or other living organisms on Earth. However, it has various uses in jewelry manufacturing, the paper industry, metallurgy, in electronics and in space industries.
For example, Zirconium has large applications in space crafts and PET cameras. It can be alloyed with other elements for the manufacturing of watch cases, light filaments, surgical appliances, explosive weapons, furnaces, refractories, ceramic blades and knives, and so on. Cubic Zirconia is also used as an alloy for jewelry pieces. Furthermore, it has applications in the biomedical industry for the manufacturing of reconstructions, hip and knee replacements, prosthetics, dental implants, and so on.
Zirconium on Earth
Zirconium does not exist on Earth as a free, native element. It is present in the Earth’s crust and in our planet’s seawater. This Transition Metal can be found in the silicate mineral zircon and in other minerals like Jargoon, hyacinth, jacinth, ligure, and various ores like kosnarite and baddeleyite. Zirconium is most abundant in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, India, the US, and Russia.
Zirconium is currently being studied as a possible solution to the treatment of hyperkalemia. Zirconium cyclosilicate could play a big role in such therapies and treatments as it has the ability to trap Potassium ions throughout the human gastrointestinal tract.