Hafnium or Hf with atomic number 72 on the periodic table, is the element comprising ductile features and akin to the chemical properties of zirconium. In 1923, it was first identified at the University of Copenhagen and derived its name from there (Hafnium in Latin means Copenhagen).
Physical Features of Hafnium
A silver and lustrous colored ductile metal, Hafnium is an excellent absorber of neutrons, corrosion-resistant, and possesses a high melting point. Hf is commonly found in zirconium minerals with a 5% concentration. Its chemical features are so identical to zirconium that disconnecting these elements is extremely hard. Some more physical features of this awesome metal are:
● There is less effect of acids on it and resists concentrated alkalis.
● It produces oxides while ignited with oxygen.
● Some compounds of this metal are highly toxic and possess explosive features.
● Approximately 5.8 ppm of the top surface of the earth’s crust incorporates this metal.
Due to its high neutron absorption nature, hafnium is used in nuclear reactors and submarines to balance fission reactions. Regulation of the fission reaction is mandatory to generate electricity. For the successful execution of the process, a good number of neutrons need to keep in close control. Here, hafnium plays its part. As it has the property of absorbing neutrons, it is utilized in rods for controlling the speed of fission reactions. Thus, it is commonly practiced in nuclear power plants.
As it has refractory compounds that do not melt easily, the metal is used with high-temperature alloys. According to https://www.samaterials.com/159-hafnium, when hafnium is combined with niobium, it creates a compound that can withstand extreme heat conditions. Such compounds are found in aeronautical applications such as in a space rocket engine and also in different types of furnaces. Some more usages of this great metal are:
● It can capture neutrons and is used in the rods of reactors.
● To reduce the leakage of current, it is used in the microprocessors of electronic devices.
● In the form of a getter, it clears away residual gas from vacuum vessels.
● As it can shed electrons freely, it becomes an essential component of the electrode in the process of plasma cutting.
● To regulate the recrystallization of tungsten filaments.
● To light up incandescent lamps.
As an alloy, it is often mixed with other metals like tantalum, iron, titanium, niobium, etc. Apart from these, this excellent metal is also used in electronic equipment like capacitors, cathodes, filaments of light bulbs, microprocessors, etc. According to recent scientific research, compounds made of hafnium are easy to apply on gate insulators for making processors smaller. Thus, it makes technology more efficient.
Although hafnium has proved exceptionally beneficial to perform different industrial activities and researches, yet the harmful effects of this unique metal cannot be ignored. Exposure of it in excessive quantity can cause several health issues such as mucous membranes, irritation in the eyes, etc. Moreover, it can easily explode in case of mishandling. So, it is better to use this awesome ingredient of the earth with great care.