Zirconia is perhaps most famously known as a substitute for Diamonds and/or teeth (as it’s used in crowns!). This is true; however, Zirconia is so much more than just a substitute and should not be pigeonholed. Zirconia is actually a ceramic, and it has some surprising characteristics.
The material, otherwise known as Zirconium Dioxide, is a synthetic derived from zircon sand – which sounds like something from a distant galaxy, but it is not! Zircon sand is a co-product from the mining and processing of ancient heavy mineral sand deposits. It’s possible to create Fused Zirconia, which is made from carbothermal reduction of zircon sand heated in temperatures exceeding 2,600⁰C, and Chemical Synthesised Zirconia, produced via the chemical reaction of caustic soda with zircon sand and several other chemical processes.
Properties of Zirconia:
- Extremely high melting point of 2,715⁰C
- High flexural strength and hardness
- Low thermal expansion
- High mechanical strength
- High fracture toughness
- Abrasion and wear resistant
- Chemical inertia and Biocompatibility
- Electrical Insulator
- Low thermal conductivity
Thanks to these properties, Zirconia is a valuable product across a range of industries. It is used in advanced ceramics, dental ceramics, investment casting, refractories, brake pads, catalytic convertors and, in its cubic form, a cheaper alternative to Diamonds. However, because Zirconia offers so much, components made from the material are significantly more expensive when compared to those of Alumina ceramic.
Products made from Zirconia:
- Advanced ceramic tubes
- Compressors and components for pumps, valves, and seals
- Dental ceramics (crowns and bridges)
- Bearing technology in auto engineering
- Forming applications
- Drawing tools
- Sealing technology
- Zirconia Oxide-stabilised substrates