Zirconium: metal or ceramic?

Nowadays, there is a debate whether Zirconium is a metal or ceramic material. This page pretends to clarify the frequently asked questions from both the professionals and the patients.

Zirconium, the chemical element:

Zirconium is a chemical element with atomic number 40, located in group 4 from the periodic chart of elements. Its symbol is Zr. It is a hard metal, resistant to corrosion and similar to steel. It does not exist in nature in the pure state. It can be obtained through complex physico-chemical process. In the periodic chart, it is located next to Titanium (Ti). For this reason their properties are very similar.

Zirconium. The mineral:

The most important minerals that contain zirconium are zircon (ZrSiO4) and badeleyita (ZrO2). Zirconium is always found mixed together with Hafnium (Hf), and they are very difficult to separate them.

badeleyeita mineral badeleyita mineral

zircon mineral

Occurrence and Refining:

Zirconium has a concentration of about 130 mg/kg within the earth’s crust and about 0.026 μg/L in sea water, though it is never found in nature as a native metal. The principal commercial source of zirconium is the zirconium silicate mineral, zircon (ZrSiO4), which is found primarily in Australia, Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, and the United States. 80% of zircon mining occurs in Australia and South Africa.

Zirconium also occurs in more than 140 other recognized mineral species including baddeleyite andkosnarite. This metal is commercially produced mostly by the reduction of the zirconium(IV) chloride withmagnesium metal in the Kroll process. Commercial-quality zirconium for most uses still has a content of 1% to 3% hafnium.

Cantera de zirconio. Australia. Zircon mine. Australia

zircon sand.

This zircon sand is the raw material to obtain pure METAL Zr99% and the Zirconium oxide CERAMIC (ZrO2) .

Production of Pure Metal Zirconium  (Zr 99%):

Zirconio puro Crystal Bar

To obtain the pure metal, the process “Van Arkel” is used to obtain a zirconium sponge called Zirconium crystal-bar.

The “crystal-bar” can be melted to obtain the zirconium rod or ingot. The pure zirconium is mainly used in the nuclear reactors as containers for the nuclear fuel, and also to form compounds highly resistant to corrosion.

Zirconia rod. pure Zr 99%

This metal is grey, shining and very resistant to corrosion. It is lighter than steel, and hardness similar to copper.

Production of zirconium ceramic = zirconia = ZrO2

Zirconium ceramic is obtained through a reductive clorination (Kroll process). At the end of this process, one can obtain zirconium powder.

Zirconia (ZrO2) = zirconium ceramic

ZIRCONIA is a powder that is used as pigment for white paints, and also in the abrasives. At room temperature presents a monoclínic phase. This cofiguration is extremely fragile.
To improve the properties of zirconia (ZrO2), other elements are added to the compound to stabilize the molecular structure: ex. Yttrium (Y). Through a mixture and sintering process, the final ceramic structure is stabilized. The Y-TZP is the Yttrium stabilized Tetragonal Zirconium Policrystal.

The Y-TZP ceramic is the material that is used in dentistry as ZIRCONIUM. Simply, it has been always easier to say zirconium than Y-TZP.

CeraRoot Zirconium implants (Y-TZP)  and  de zirconium prosthetics (Y-TZP) with porcelain for final color characterization.

Zirconium properties

METAL  vs  CERAMIC

METAL  Zr 99%

  1. Color metal grey
  2. Weak metallic bonds
  3. Maleable
  4. Ductile
  5. Wear
  6. Thermic conductor
  7. Electric conductor
  8. easy oxidation
  9. chemical corrosion
  10. used in nuclear reactors

Y-TZP CERAMIC

  1. Color white
  2. Strong cobalent bonds
  3. Hard
  4. Fragile
  5. Wear resistant
  6. Thermic insulator
  7. Electric insulator
  8. Oxidation resistant
  9. No chemical corrosion
  10. Used in technical ceramics

10 thoughts on “Zirconium: metal or ceramic?

  1. I have upper titanium (5) of them. Despite careful cleaning 2 times a day with elec toothbrush and water pic I am having throbbing above them especially painful when I push above my timeline and higher on the inside of each nostril. I just had my year anniversary and seen articles about how titanium can attract bacteria regardless on your daily hygiene. My cosmetic dentist never gave me any options on what materials to use or any info on ceramic implants Y-TZP I AM AN INTERNAL MED INFECTIOUS DISEASE NURSE as well as an ENT nurse. I am also having dizziness from this infection. Hopefully it is not some type of nerve damage. He hasn’t been able to see me yet. So I asked him to send in a script for an antibiotic which he did ! However I am on my 2nd round of antibiotics still haven’t gotten in yet symptoms are the same and I am frustrated that I as a pd. And nurse was ever fully informed about these titanium implants. If he uses the best as stated I don’t know why he didn’t tell me about the ceramic. I have spent over $ 7’500$ for these teeth. With my crawl hygiene I feel I shouldn’t be having these problems! HELP AND ADVICE GREATLY NEEDED AND APPRECIATED! I live in USA.

    1. Hello Ms. Decker, we are sorry to hear you are suffering all these problems. Please try using a new tooth brush and pressing the brush against the implants as if you were doing acupuncture. Do not move the brush fast. Just do it slowly but with a lot of pressure trying to bring the filaments (tufts) of the tooth brush as deep as possible into the gums. Even if it bleeds don’t worry and do it for several days. Do not use electric toothbrush because the filaments don’t go deep enough into the implant area. You will see that after the days go by, the gums will stop bleeding and the pain discomfort will go away most of it. If you truly are allergic to titanium alloy implants or sensitive to metals, the discomfort will not go away until you have the implants removed from your mouth. Many doctors are completely unaware that CeraRoot implants exist and that they are a very good option for patients that do not wish to have metals in the mouth. It will take time until other big companies realize that ceramics are MUCH more healthy than metal titanium.

  2. I want to replace my crowns with ceraroot implants. I have had fibromyalgia most of my life and I am tired of the pain. My teeth were ruined because of antibiotics I was given when a was 3 years old.

  3. I live in Mount Shasta California and it is very difficult to find a dentist to do the ceraroot procedure. Any suggestions?

  4. Hello, we are 4 biomedical engineering students and we would like to know por a college project, if possible, the Young’s Modulus, Poisson’s Ratio and densitiy of the material that you use. Thank you!!

    1. Hello Beth, thank you for writing in our website. We don’t know the prices of the treatment you need to have. Can you tell us which country or city you live in? Once we know your address we can send you some nearby doctors that you can contact.

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