Chemical Element: zirconium

(Modern Latin: from Arabic, zargun, "gold color"; metal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: Zr
Atomic number: 40
Year discovered: 1789

Discovered by: Martin Heinrich Klaproth (1743-1817), a German chemist.

  • The name zircon probably originated from the Arabic “zargun”, which describes the color of the gemstone now known as zircon.
  • Klaproth obtained new oxide from the semiprecious jewel zircon and named the new metal contained in the oxide “zirconium”.
  • An important advance did not come until 1925 when massive, ductile metal was made by two Dutch scientists, A. E. van Arkel and J. H. de Boer.
  • In the middle 1940’s, W. J. Kroll developed a cheaper process for making the metal.
  • Despite its interesting properties, zirconium probably would have remained of minor importance had not its use in nuclear reactors developed shortly before 1950.
  • Because of its high resistance to corrosion, it has found increasing use in the fabrication of pumps, valves, heat exchangers, filters, and other chemical handling and processing equipment.
  • Zirconium compounds have been used in treating fabrics for rot and weather resistance, floor waxes, leather tanning, in photographic flashbulbs, and in petroleum-cracking catalysts.

Name in other languages:

French: zirconium

German: Zirconium

Italian: zirconio

Spanish: circonio

Information about other elements may be seen at this Chemical Elements List.

A special unit about words that include chemo-, chem- may be seen here.