What Is the Hafnium Element and Its Uses?

What Is the Hafnium Element and Its Uses?

The hafnium element is a transition metal that’s silvery-gray with a glossy finish. It was the second-to-last element with stable nuclei put on the periodic table, discovered in 1923.

The term hafnium is from the Latin word for Copenhagen, Hafnia. The nuclear power sector uses this element. Manufacturers also use it for ceramics, electrical equipment, light bulbs, and the production of super-alloys, among other industrial applications.

Let’s now delve deeper and learn more about this little-known element.

Hafnium Facts

Hafnium is seldom found in nature. But you can find it in high concentrations in most zirconium minerals (up to 5%). It is 72 on the period table of elements.

In truth, zirconium and hafnium are so chemically similar that distinguishing the two is difficult. The majority of commercial hafnium comes from zirconium refining as a byproduct.

According to Chemicool, hafnium is the 45th most abundant element. It accounts for about 3.3 parts per million (ppm) of the Earth’s crust by weight.

Hafnium has high corrosion resistance due to the development of an oxide layer on exposed surfaces. Except for hydrogen fluoride, it is unaffected by air, water, and all acids and alkalis.

At around 7,034 degrees Fahrenheit, hafnium carbide (HfC) has the highest melting point of any two-element compound (3,890 degrees Celsius). Hafnium nitride (HfN) has a high melting point of 5,981 degrees Fahrenheit (3,305 degrees C). The mixed hafnium and carbide of tungsten have the highest melting point of any known compound, at 7,457 degrees F, among compounds containing three elements (4,125 degrees C).

Who Discovered Hafnium?

Nicholas Bohr urged two researchers at his institute to look for the unknown element 72 in zirconium ore in 1921. They were Dutch physicist Dirk Coster and Hungarian Georg von Hevesy, who was a chemist.

Bohr recognized the metal would likely have a chemical structure similar to zirconium from his quantum theory of atomic structure. Thus, there was a good chance that someone would discover the two elements in the same ores.

Coster and Von Hevesy followed Bohr’s guidance and used X-ray spectroscopy to examine zirconium ore. They utilized the theory of electrons filling shells and subshells within atoms to anticipate the variations in the X-ray spectra of the two elements. In 1923, this technique helped them discover hafnium.

The finding was one of six gaps in the periodic table at the time. The scientists gave the new element the name of Niels Bohr’s birthplace: Copenhagen (Hafnia Latin).

Hafnium Uses

Hafnium is corrosion-resistant and a good neutron absorber. This means manufacturers can use it to build nuclear reactor control rods and nuclear submarines.

Electronic components, such as capacitors and cathodes, use hafnium. Also, ceramics, light bulb filaments and photographic flashbulbs all employ hafnium.

Vacuum tubes use it as a getter, a material that mixes with and eliminates trace gases from the tubes. People make alloys with hafnium and other metals, such as iron, niobium, titanium, and tantalum. Aerospace applications, like space rocket engines, use heat-resistant hafnium-niobium alloys, for example.

To learn more about hafnium’s uses, click here.

The Hafnium Element Explained

We’ve provided you with a thorough little summary of the hafnium element. So you can now explore further into its properties and uses with good oversight.

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