The Zirconium Crucible, the Lab’s Unsung Hero

Utensils made of porcelain and steelImagine the world without Zirconium (Zr). Yes, that hard, lustrous and silvery metal with applications in a variety of industries including manufacturing, aerospace and defence and nuclear and scientific research. Zirconium’s mechanical strength, resistance to corrosives and flexibility lend itself necessary in activities requiring a high-temperature application.

Without Zirconium, forging those shiny and sharp katanas, blades and knives, moulding attack-proof jets and biplanes, cutting jewellery and even the simplest task of sanding a table top will not be possible. In the area of laboratory research, many wonders of science have been discovered and created using one of zirconium’s most identifiable forms: the zirconium crucible.

Zirconium Crucible

Crucibles are cup-like vessels typically with lids and come in varying sizes (10ml up to 100 ml). They were originally made from clay, but with the advancement of material science, crucibles are now made of any material that can withstand extreme temperatures. Metal-based and zirconium are widely used as materials for crucibles since they tolerate the highest temperatures of up to 450° C in typical laboratory work.

Zirconium crucible is made from high-grade zirconium dioxide (the same material used in metallurgical furnaces). It is the suitable crucible in applications such as chemical fusions using sodium peroxide or sodium carbonate and laboratory preparations for metal work. Since it is resistant to corrosives including acids, strong alkali, nitrates, peroxide borate, carbonate hydroxide and fluorites, zirconium crucible is a cost-effective alternative to platinum, steel, or porcelain crucibles.

Other Types of Laboratory Crucibles

These are other types of crucibles used in metal work.

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1. Porcelain crucible – for applications requiring stability in sudden temperature changes without cracks or deformation.

2. Platinum crucible – for chemical analysis with excellent resistance to chemical reaction.

3. Stainless steel crucible – for cryogenic applications and is less fragile than porcelain crucibles.

4. Nickel crucible – has a highly polished surface but low resistance to sulfuric and diluted nitric acids.

5. Carbon steel crucible – for use in special applications but prone to light rusting.

6. Vitreous carbon crucible – made from glassy carbon with ceramic properties ideal for semiconductor and pure materials technology.

Zirconium crucibles have proven their reliability and flexibility in delivering results for a variety of applications: research, experiments, chemical analysis (XRF analysis), tests, quality control and educational purposes, among others. It’s no wonder it is considered the crucible of the future.