Zirconium (Zr)

By: Connor Willwerth

History of Zirconium

Zirconium was discovered in 1789 in a stone on an island in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). After the stone was retrieved, a German scientist named Martin Heinrich Klaproth discovered the mineral inside of the stone.
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Uses of Zirconium

An important use is in nuclear power plants. Zircon, its main compound, is used for many industrial applications and can be obtained in gem stone form.

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Isotopes of Zirconium

There are 5 naturally occurring isotopes, Zirconium-90, Zirconium-91, Zirconium-92, Zirconium-94 and Zirconium-96. They don’t have many different applications then the basic form. There’s also about 12 different radioactive isotopes of Zirconium, with no practical uses.

Compounds of Zirconium

Two most common compounds are Zircon and Zirconia. Naturally occurring Zircon is in demand for gemstones. Natural Zircon includes uranium, thorium and other radioactive elements. These radioactive elements give it a fire like appearance, resembling diamonds.

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Properties of Zirconium and Identification

Physical Properties:

Atomic Mass: 91

Atomic Radius in picometers (pm): 160pm

Density: 6.5

Melting Point: 2127 K

Boiling Point: 4679 K

At room temperature (22°C): Solid

Appearance: A hard silvery metal, resistant to corrosion, shiny, surface is flaky

Conductivity: Low electric conductivity

Malleability: Very malleable

Hardness: Similar to copper

Chemical Properties:

Flammability: When at a solid state, it is known to combust when coming in contact with oxygen. In this state, it is powdery, this is the only flammable state.

Reactivity: When it reacts with oxygen, forms a thin layer of Zirconium Oxide (ZrO2) which protects form further corrosion. Doesn’t react with cold acids or water.


Atomic Number: 40

Mass Number: 91.224

Protons: 40

Neutrons: 51

Electrons: 40

Location on the Periodic Table:

Beneath titanium, to the right of yttrium, above hafnium, to the left of niobium. It is in the fourth column.


- Element Card: Gray, Theodore W. (2008). The Photographic Card Deck of the Elements.

- Elements Book: Gray, Theodore W. (2009). The Elements: A visual exploration of every known atom in the universe. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.

- http://chemistry.about.com/od/elementfacts/a/zirconium.htm

- http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/zr.htm

- http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/157226/