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Separation of Zirconium and Hafnium

Zirconium, Zr, is the element with atomic number 40 and atomic weight of 91.224. Most zirconium is produced by refining mineral zircon. Zr is applied in nuclear industry as the zirconium has low neutron-capture cross section. Zr is consumed in the form of zircaloys, usually Zircaloy-2 and Zircaloy-4, to make fuel rods for nuclear reactors. Since Zirconium has very good chemical corrosion resistance, zirconium shapes, such as zirconium tubes and plates are used to make equipment for chemical industry. Zr is also used as additive for steel and zirconium oxide, sometimes known as zirconia, is used in production of ceramics.

Hafnium, which is the element share the same group with Zr, has higher density and much larger neutron capture cross section. Content of Hf impurity must be very low in zircaloy products if they are applied in nuclear industry. Zircon, major resource of pure Zr, usually has some Hf and the separation of Zr and Hf is extremely hard. As these two elements are in the same group, they have similar chemical properties. Usually, liquid extraction method is applied for the separation of zirconium and hafnium and several systems have been developed. Distillation of molten salt is also developed for the separation process. However, all of the process above is expensive compared with common metal purification processes. Besides, liquid extraction process use large quantity of water and make lots of waste. Usually, there is no need to remove all of the hafnium form zirconium, unless it is sued for nuclear industry. Thus, the low hafnium products could be hard to source in normal market. Although the process of reduce zirconium from its slat by magnesium is usually cheaper, high quality pure zirconium is still produced in the form of Zr crystal bar. The Market price of low Hafnium Zirconium materials could cost 50~100% more compared with high Hf Zirconium

Stanford Advanced Materials provides high purity crystal bars of Zirconium as your Zr source. Both low Hafnium and high hafnium product is available. Hf content of our crystal bar could be lower than 250ppm. 

Keywords: Zirconium,Hafnium,Metal,Separation


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