Rare Metal Investments – Hafnium

rare metal investments - Bismuth

Hafium is in the A & B Baskets.

The Dutch physicist Dirk Coster and the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy discovered hafnium through X-ray spectroscopy of Norwegian zircon in Copenhagen in 1923. What they found here was an element which is now regarded as a specialist for very special tasks.

The new raw material got its name from “Hafnia“, the Latin name of Copenhagen. Hafnium is difficult to extract – it must be first isolated with difficulty from zirconium in order to get to the coveted raw material. This is not possible during the manufacturing process, but takes place in a separate process. This steel-grey metal of high density comes mostly from Australia and South America and the estimated global presence is around one million tonnes.

As a resources it is very much required. Steel is now mostly cut using a plasma torch that does not require any hazardous gas, but only air and electricity. A small head made of pure hafnium is included in its copper electrode. The metal is not only extremely corrosion-proof and with a high melting point, but also another property that makes it unique: the ability to discharge electrons in the air. For this, even a small amount of energy is enough for hafnium, which is why the electrode head with hafnium works at a cooler temperature and the plasma torch burns hotter at the same time. Another key application is the nuclear technology, where hafnium is used in nuclear reactors. It is also used in computer chips, which would not achieve by far their present performance without the rare element. “This is one of the major changes in the last 40 years,“ said David Perlmutter, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Mobility Group of the chip manufacturer, Intel. The production using hafnium instead of the mostly used silicon promises less current leakages, more speed and lower production costs.

Specifications

Element Symbol: Hf
Atomic mass: 178.49 amu
Atomic radius: 208 pm
Density: 13.31 g/cm³
Colour: Silvery
Melting point: 2,227 °C
Boiling point: 4,602 °C
Heat of evaporation: 630 kJ/mol
Annual production worldwide approx.: 65 t.

Application

  • Nuclear Technology
  • New high-capacity power plants
  • Computer chips (e.g. Intel® processors)
  • Filament for Lighting
  • Palasma Torch to Cut Steel
  • Superalloys in turbines (effective use, because higher temperatures are possible)
  • Electrodes
  • Flash lamps with very high luminous efficiency