Hafnium is a silvery-gray, corrosion resistant transition metal that is chemically similar to zirconium. In fact, it is often found together in zirconium minerals. Hafnium is a chemical element and is represented by the symbol Hf and the atomic number 72. It is a relatively recent discovery and was first isolated in the 20th century. It is never found in its free form in nature, but can be found in certain minerals. The mineral zircon is the most important commercial source of hafnium and this is commonly found in the titanium ores ilmenite and rutile. Hafnium is relatively rare and it is predicted that the reserves of this metal could last less than 10 years if the demand for hafnium increases. Let’s take a look at the current uses of this transition metal.
Uses of hafnium
The vast majority of hafnium produced each year is used in the production of control rods in nuclear reactors. Certain hafnium isotopes can absorb a number of neutrons which makes them perfect for this application. It is also used in pressurized water reactors because it has a high level of corrosion resistance.
Another major use of hafnium is in certain metal alloys. One of the reasons it is used in this application because it improves corrosion resistance. The main metal alloys where hafnium is used are titanium, iron, tantalum and niobium.
Hafnium is also used in the microprocessor industry. A hafnium compound is used in the gate insulators of certain microchips.
Hafnium is used in gas-filled incandescent light bulbs because it is capable of scavenging oxygen and nitrogen.
It is also used as an electrode in plasma cutters.
Did you know?
There are limited uses for hafnium because it is rare and so similar to zirconium that many applications can use zirconium instead.