Zirconium Chemical Processes
Zircon sand is an equimolecular mixture of zirconium and silicon dioxides. It can be dissociated in an an arc furnace to form fumed silica and fused zirconia. Fused zirconia is a high volume low value commodity product.
The major route to zirconium chemicals is via zirconium oxychloride. There are various pathways from zircon sand to zirconium oxychloride, most involve some form of alkali fusion followed by dissolution and separation. The alternative method is via a chlorination route.
Zirconium oxychloride can be roasted in air to produce a much more pure oxide than the fused product.
It is usual to precipitate a zirconium sulphate, (often referred to as zirconium basic sulphate or ZBS), from the oxychloride solution. From this intermediate, a small range of other zirconium salts and high purity oxides are produced. These are shown below.
The most important of the above products is zirconium basic carbonate, or ZBC.
It is from ZBC that the vast majority of end-use chemicals are produced. The most important of these products are shown below.
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