There are more than three dozen elements in the transition metal series. We’re taking a closer look at Zirconium, Niobium, Molybdenum, Technetium, Ruthenium and Palladium.
Zirconium is hard and resistant to chemical attack, so it is used in high-temperature situations. It is used in molds for molten metals and as an opacifier for ceramic materials.
It is also a component in abrasives like sandpaper.
Niobium is an interesting element. It was named columbium at first because it was found in ore in America, but it was called niobium in Europe at that same time. In the 1950s, niobium was chosen as the universal name to stop the confusion.
Of the 44,500 tonnes of niobium mined in 2006, the production of high-grade structural steel took up 90 percent. This element is also used to create alloy superconductors and electronic components.
Molybdenum can exist in extreme temperatures without softening or expanding. It is used in military armor, aircraft parts and industrial motors.
Many high-strength alloys contain at least a small amount of molybdenum. More than 43,000 tonnes of the element are used annually to produce stainless steels, tools and superalloys.
Technetium has nuclear medicine, industrial and chemical applications. It is used in radioactive isotope medical tests, like bone scans, because it emits gamma rays that are easy to detect.
In chemical applications, technetium is a beta emitter used for equipment calibration.
Ruthenium added to platinum and palladium alloys makes them harder. That’s why it is used in electrical contacts. It is also used in mixed-metal oxide anodes to protect cathodes in underground or underwater structures.
In another application, ruthenium tetroxide can reveal fingerprints by reacting with oils and fats.
Palladium is used in catalytic converters, jewelry, dentistry and surgical instruments, among other various applications.
Stay tuned to labnotes.chemistrymatters.com as we dive into the full transition metal series.