Zirconium is pronounced as zer-KO-ni-em.

 The term, Zirconium, has been derived from the Persian word ‘Zagun‘, which means ‘gold like’. First refferred to in biblical writings, was discovered by Martin Heinrich Klaproth, a German chemist, while analyzing the composition of the mineral jargon (ZrSiO4) in 1789 & so the Persian word was adapted into German and this metal was referred to as ‘Zirkon’ which in English later became ‘Zircon’ and ‘Zirconium’.


The metal was isolated for the first time in 1824 by the same Swedish chemist who discovered selenium & thorium; & who also first isolated calcium, barium, strotium, tantalum, & silicon. Jons Jakob Berzelius, regarded as one of the founders of modern chemistry, accomplished isolating zirconium by heating a mixture of potassium and a small amount of potassium zirconium fluoride in an iron tube.


Today, most zirconium is obtained from the minerals zircon (ZrSiO4) which is mined in Australia, USA and Sri Lanka; and baddeleyite (Zirconium Oxide ZrO2) which is mined in Brazil.  Zirconium is refined through a process known as the Kroll Process. This process is very difficult & expensive, making recycling very important.

The estimated crustal abundance of zirconium is only 1.65×102 milligrams per kilogram. World production is in excess of 900,000 tonnes per year of zircon, and 7000 tonnes of the metal are produced. The estimated reserves slightly exceed a billion tonnes. So as the known deposits of zircon and zirconia sands in Australia, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka and the USA are depleted while industrial demands worldwide rise, recycling becomes imperative. Zirconium scrap and zirconium alloy scrap are recycled by only a few companies in the U.S. and Southern Resources is one of those few.




90% of the zirconium produced each year, is used as the alloys Zircaloy 2 & Zircaloy 4, in the nuclear industry for cladding fuel elements since it has a low absorption cross section for neutrons.


Zirconium is very resistant to corrosion by sea water, & many common acids & alkalis. It is therefore used extensively by the chemical industry where corrosive agents are employed, in high performance pumps and valves.


Zirconium is exrememly resistant to heat, & so is used in catalytic converters, percussion caps and furnace bricks. The major end uses of zircon (ZrSiO4) are refractories, ceramic opacification and foundry sands. For instance, Zirconium dioxide (ZrO2) can withstand extraordinarily high temperatures and is used to make crucibles and to line the walls of high temperature furnaces.


The oxide zircon has a high index of refraction and is marketed as a natural gemstone used in jewelry. The most popular of which is cubic zirconia, a clear, transparent gemstone that can be cut to look indistinguishible from a diamond.


Zirconium carbonate (3ZrO2·CO2·H2O) is used in lotions to treat poison ivy.


The metal also has many other uses, among them in photographic flashbulbs and surgical instruments, to make the glass for television, in the removal of residual gases from electronic vacuum tubes, and as a hardening agent in alloys, especially steel. The paper and packaging industries are finding that zirconium compounds make good surface coatings because they have excellent water resistance and strength. Zirconium superconducts at low temperatures and zirconium/niobium alloys are used to make superconductor magnets. Alloys with zinc become magnetic at temperatures below 35 K. Zirconium is used as a “getter” in vacuum tubes, in flash bulbs for photography, in explosive primers, and in lamp filaments.


Zirconium alloy scrap is a highly specialized recycling process performed by only a few companies in the U.S. and Southern Resources is one of those few. To sell any quantity of zirconium scrap, please do not hesitate to call Southern Resources at (xxx)luv-mtls/(xxx) 588-6387 or email us atsellmetal@southernresources.com



Common Uses of Zirconium

Vacuum tubes
A natural gemstone used in jewelry – cubic zirconia
Cubic zirconium rings and earrings
Aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex
Nuclear energy uses
Military incendiaries
Lamp filaments
Artificial joints and limbs

The Properties of the Element Zirconium

Name of Element : Zirconium
Symbol of Element : Zr
Atomic Number of Zirconium : 40
Atomic Mass: 91.224 amu
Melting Point: 1852.0 °C – 2125.15 °K
Boiling Point: 4377.0 °C – 4650.15 °K
Number of Protons/Electrons in Zirconium : 40
Number of Neutrons in Zirconium : 51
Crystal Structure: Hexagonal
Density @ 293 K: 6.49 g/cm3
Color of Zirconium : grayish-white

Zirconium’s Name in Other Languages

  • Latin: Zirkonium
  • Czech: Zirkonium
  • Croatian: Cirkonij
  • French: Zirkonium
  • German: Zirkonium – s
  • Italian: Zirconio
  • Norwegian: Zirkonium
  • Portuguese: Xircônio
  • Spanish: Circonio
  • Swedish: Zirkonium


The Most Common Alloys of Zr


CP Zirconium

Zircaloy 2 Zirconium 702
Zircaloy 4 Zirconium 705


Health effects of zirconium

Zirconium and its salts generally have low systemic toxicity. The estimated dietary intake is about 50 microg. Most passes through the gut without being adsorbed, and that which is adsorbed tends to accumulate slightly more in the skeleton than in tissue.

Environmental effects of zirconium

Zirconium is unlikely to present a hazard to the environment.

While aquatic plants have a rapid uptake of soluble zirconium, land plants have little tendency to adsorb it, and indeed 70% of plants that have been tested showed no zirconium to be present at all.


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