Zircon Industry Analysis
To provide up to date, reliable information about the global zircon industry.
Through bespoke assignments, TZMI provides clients with analysis of the trade of zircon sand and zircon related products. TZMI is able to do this as a result of being in continuous and close contact with market participants, studying the supply and analysing the demand of a highly fragmented end-uses of zirconium related products. Clients are provided with an independent strategic approach into all related markets; such as:
The main use of zircon sand is its transformation into flour, opacifier, fused zirconia, zirconium chemicals, chemical zirconia and zirconium metal. Zircon sand is directly used in foundry applications and refractories and other minor applications.
Zircon flour and opacifier differ in their average particle size. The most common method for grinding zircon in flour is dry milling, whilst to produce opacifier either wet or dry milling is used.
The main uses of zircon flour are ceramic frits, investment casting and CRT glass manufacture. Opacifier is used in the ceramic industry in porcelain tile bodies, glazes and coatings and also in the sanitaryware industry.
Fused zirconia is produced in an electric arc furnace. Zircon sand is fed into the furnace together with reductant and heated to about 2,700oC. At this temperature the silica is reduced and the zircon dissociates.
The main end-uses for fused zirconia are steel and glass refractories, ceramic pigments and abrasives, grinding media and wear materials.
Zirconium oxychloride and other zirconium chemicals
Fusion route is the process most commonly used to convert zircon sand in a form where it can be processed thorough to chemicals, chemical zirconia and zirconium metal. This process begins with the dissolution of zircon sand in a bath of molten caustic soda. The zircon reacts with the NaOH to form disodium zirconate and sodium silicate. The disodium zirconate is a reactive chemical which quickly breaks down to zirconyl hydroxide, which reacts with hydrochloric acid to create zirconium oxychloride (ZOC)
Once zirconium oxychloride (ZOC) has been produced, it is either used directly as a reactive chemical in the production of finished goods; or more commonly it is further processed to form other zirconium chemicals.
The main uses of zirconium chemicals are inhibition of yellow in paint, surface coating of paper and cardboard, antiperspirants, drying agent in paints and other surface coating applications.
Chemical zirconia is manufactured directly from zirconium oxychloride or by the conversion of ZOC to zirconium hydroxide. Either of this feedstocks is calcined to form zirconium oxide which is then milled down to customer requirements.
The main applications of chemical zirconia or zirconium oxide are automobile and industrial catalysts, wear materials, dielectric and piezoelectric devices, oxygen sensors and fuel cells.
Zirconium metal can be manufactured using either zircon sand or ZOC as feedstock. There are two classes of zirconium metal depending is hafnium content. Zirconium metal is suitable for highly corrosive, high temperature environments, often involving chemical processing. The main application is in nuclear fuel rods and claddings.