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Discovered in 1787 by German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth. The best known compound of this metal is zircon. Zirconium is named for the Arabic word zargun, meaning gold, for the color of zircon.

Zirconium has an extremely high index of refraction, which means that it bends light in sharp angles. This gives them the brilliance that allows them to masquerade as diamonds.

Zirconium is resistant to both corrosion and high temperatures, so is useful in the construction of space rockets/shuttles, allowing them to re-enter the atmosphere safely.

Zircaloy is used in nuclear reactors to contain the uranium pellets in the coolant tanks. (Zicaloy is used because it is resistant to corrosion by water) It is also starting to be used to build the reactor core, because zirconium does not easily absorb neutrons.

Symbol: Zr
Atomic Number: 40
Atomic Weight: 91.224
Boiling Point: 4682 K
Melting Point: 2128 K
Density at 300K: 6.51 g/cm3
Covalent radius: 1.45
Atomic radius: 2.16
Atomic volume: 14.10 cm3/mol
First ionization potental: 6.84 V
Specific heat capacity: 0.278 Jg-1K-1
Thermal conductivity: 22.7 Wm-1K-1
Electrical conductivity: 2.3 106Ω-1m-1
Heat of fusion: 21 kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization: 590.5 kJ/mol
Electronegativity: 1.33 (Pauling's)

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Zir*co"ni*um (?), n. [NL.] Chem.

A rare element of the carbon-silicon group, intermediate between the metals and nonmetals, obtained from the mineral zircon as a dark sooty powder, or as a gray metallic crystalline substance. Symbol Zr. Atomic weight, 90.4.


© Webster 1913.

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