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Hafnium Facts

Would you like to know some interesting facts about a mysterious element called hafnium? This article is just the place. Read on to know more about this element and its uses.
ScienceStruck Staff
This article will give you some information on the element hafnium and will also tell you about its uses. Come into the exciting world of chemistry and explore this interesting element.

Who Discovered Hafnium
Before we get into the facts about hafnium, let us learn the story behind the discovery of hafnium. Hafnium is one of the elements that had been puzzling scientists for a long time. Scientists knew that there was an unknown element in the periodic table but they did not know what it was. They knew what it could look like and what its attributes would be like because all the transition metals have almost similar physical and chemical characteristics.

The existence of hafnium had been predicted by Danish physicist, Niels Bohr, long before it was discovered. Finally, in 1923, Danish chemist, Dirk Coster and Hungarian physicist, George Charles von Hevesey, discovered it using an experiment called the X-ray diffraction analysis. In this method, the electrons from a piece of Norwegian zircon were discharged at the X-ray plate. Since different metals create different X-ray patterns, the two scientists were finally able to distinguish hafnium from zircon (even though the two are remarkably similar in appearance). This was how hafnium was discovered and thus, it filled the missing spot of element 72 in the periodic table. But, how did it get to be called hafnium? The scientists had carried out this successful experiment at Copenhagen, Denmark. The Latin name of Copenhagen is Hafnia and hence, to honor the city of its discovery, they decided to name it hafnium.

  • Hafnium is a transition metal.
  • It is placed in the sixth period of the periodic table.
  • In the sixth period, it is a member of the fourth group.
  • The symbol of hafnium is 'Hf'.
  • Its atomic number is 72.
  • It has an atomic weight of 178.49.
  • It has a shiny, silver white appearance.
  • It is found in combination with zirconium and zirconium compounds and needs to be extracted from them.
  • Its density is 13.31 g/cc.
  • The atomic radius of hafnium is 167 pm.
  • It has an atomic volume of 13.6 cc/mol.
  • The boiling point of hafnium is around 4600ºC.
  • Hafnium has a melting point of 2230 ºC.
  • The specific heat capacity of hafnium is 0.14 J g-1K-1.
  • The three levels of hafnium's ionization energy are, 1st: 658.5 kJ mol-1, 2nd: 1440 kJ mol-1 and 3rd: 2250 kJ mol-1.
  • Its crystal structure is hexagonal.
  • The number of protons, electrons, and neutrons present in hafnium are 72, 72, and 106 respectively.
  • The shell structure of hafnium has a configuration of 2, 8, 18, 32, 10, 2.
  • The hafnium atom has the following electron configuration - [Xe] 4f145d26s2.
  • Hafnium is a ductile metal. Ductility is the ability to be drawn into wires.
  • It is also highly malleable, which means that hafnium can also be flattened into sheets when force is applied to it.
  • Hafnium is a good conductor of heat as well as electricity.
  • The most important use of hafnium is in nuclear reactors for nuclear fission experiments. Hafnium can absorb neutrons easily and effectively. Hence, it is used in these experiments.
  • Another important use of hafnium is to form binary compounds with other metals. These compounds are used to make refractory materials, which can withstand high temperatures in furnaces.
  • Hafnium has a 'getting' ability. This makes it a good scavenger metal to detect and retrieve nitrogen and oxygen.
  • Superalloys (alloys that can bear high temperatures and pressure) use hafnium in their composition.
  • Hafnium chips are replacing silicon chips in leading companies like Intel and IBM.
  • Due to its ability to discharge electrons freely, it is used in televisions and radio tubes.