Zinc has atomic number 30 and atomic weight 65.38. It is symbolized by 'Zn', and is placed in the first row and group 12 of the modern periodic table. Its oxidation number is +2, and this is the reason why its chemical properties are very similar to magnesium. Zinc can be easily identified by its bluish color and lustrous appearance. In non-scientific terms, this element is referred to as spelter; the name zinc originates from the German word zin, which means tin.
- Zinc was known since as early as the prehistoric times, which is evident from the material remnants (statues and ornaments) of the past. Prior to its discovery, the ores of this element were used for manufacturing brass (an alloy of copper and zinc). It is claimed that brass has been used since the 10th century BC by many cultures including the Greeks, Asians, Romans, and Chinese.
- Though it was isolated for the first time in 1742 by Anton von Swab, the credit for its discovery goes to a German chemist, Andreas Marggraf, who isolated pure metallic zinc from calamine, in 1746. Since then, several research based studies have been conducted about the isolation techniques of this element. Today, Nyrster is the world's largest zinc producing company that contributes about 70 percent of its total production.
- Currently, there are 21 isotopes (different forms of the same element) of zinc, out of which, 5 are identified as stable ones, and are found naturally. Its major ores include sphalerite (zinc sulfide), calamine (zinc silicate), smithsonite (zinc carbonate), hydrozincite (zinc carbonate), and wurzite (zinc sulfide).
- The most common procedures followed for the isolation of this element are as follows: froth flotation (separation of hydrophobic and hydrophilic substances) from the ore, roasting at higher temperatures to produce zinc oxide, and finally, isolation of zinc from its oxide form.
- The melting point of zinc is 419.58° C, whereas its boiling point is 907.0° C. Its crystal structure is hexagonal in shape, and has a specific gravity of 7.133 (at 25° C). Like other transitional metals, it is malleable, ductile, and is a good conductor of electricity. However, it is brittle at room temperature; the properties of malleability and ductility are applicable only when it is being heated to a temperature of about 100-150° C.
- Zinc is identified as the 24th most abundant element found in the Earth's crust, and also the 4th most commonly used element. It is mainly used for manufacturing alloys such as brass, bronze, nickel silver, German silver, aluminum solder, etc. It is also used in galvanizing other metals to prevent corrosion.
- Zinc is also used in numerous industries: electrical, hardware, automotive, cosmetics, rubber, plastic, batteries, and pharmaceutical. Regarding the health importance, it is an essential mineral that is responsible for many metabolic processes in the human body. Its deficiency can cause certain diseases and disorders; in children, it can lead to diarrhea, growth retardation, and a weak immune system. Excessive zinc, on the other hand, can cause lethargy and copper deficiency.