THE FUTURE OF METAL: ZINC

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An abundant metal found in Earth’s crust, zinc possesses countless industrial, commercial, and biological uses. Though this silvery blue-hued metal is less memorable than other metals such as iron, aluminum, steel and copper, its unseen importance to many industrial processes makes it the fourth most widely utilized metal in the world. Zinc is distinctive because of its useful anti-corrosive properties and ability to bond well to other metals. Because of these qualities, it is primarily used in order to galvanize steel. However, alloys of zinc are vital to a wide range of applications, from chemical and mining applications to musical instruments as well as human health. Let’s take a look back at the origins of zinc and it’s progression through the ages. Discover its impressive properties, current uses and what the future of this multifaceted metal may bring. And, most importantly, how it can benefit and be used by you.

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THE HISTORY OF ZINC

Long before it was identified as an element, zinc ore was used in the Babylonia, Assyria and Palestine regions as to produce the copper-zinc alloy, brass, as well as in salt form for medicinal purposes. The formation of brass continued to be the main use of zinc throughout the centuries, with traces being found in India, China, and accompanying bronze during the Roman Empire in the manufacture of coins, weapons, and art. However, the “discovery” of pure zinc wasn’t dated until 1746, when it was credited to the German chemist Andreas Marggraf, who was the first to isolate the pure element. In 1800, zinc contributed to the conception of electricity, when Alessandro Volta created the first battery using copper and zinc plates. Come 1837, galvanization—the utilization of zinc plating as an anti-corrosion agent for other metals—was developed.

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ZINC NOW

Since 1837, galvanization has come to be the leading industrial application of pure zinc. Galvanization, the process of applying a protective zinc coating over a metal (typically to steel or iron), is the most common way zinc is used to stop corrosion. Because the metal is more reactive than steel and iron, it is used sacrificially to protect those metals from rusting. This process is the most effective and inexpensive protection from atmospheric corrosion, generally being applied through hot dipping, spraying, painting, or electrochemically. In fact, it is so common that 50 percent of the 12 million tons of zinc used annually worldwide is used for galvanizing steel. The next leading use of zinc is as an alloy; 17 percent of consumed zinc is combined with copper and other metals to form materials that are used in automation, electrical mechanisms, and household fixtures. An additional 17 percent of zinc used in die-casting: the use of molds to produce various metal parts. Another significant use of this versatile metal is in the production of zinc oxide and zinc sulfates for a variety of commercial purposes. This white powder that is applied to everything from rubber and paint manufacturing, solar cells, nuclear reactors, to sunscreen. That’s not all. Zinc also plays a vital role in health and well-being. Intake of this element is essential for the growth and development of humans, animals, and plants. The human body contains between 2 and 3 grams of zinc, which necessary for proper enzyme, sensory, and immune system functions. Trace amounts of zinc exist in various foods, such as seafood, beef, and spinach, as well as is available as dietary supplements.

THE FUTURE OF ZINC

The use of zinc is proving to be emergent in the battery industry, having potential applications to provide portable and safer products in this sector. Although it was utilized in the emergent days of the battery, it has largely given way to lead-acid, nickel, cadmium and lithium -ion batteries. However the evolution of zinc energy-storage technologies are supplementing needs where these other batteries are falling short. Firstly, an advantage of utilizing zinc in batteries is its flexibility. New designs and methods of construction, such as the technology that is used to print graphics on T-shirts (yes, really), are providing practical options for wearable batteries that can be molded into almost any shape. Additionally, zinc is less toxic and can be safely exposed to air and water. Therefore, the application of this metal is a less significant risk than materials like lead or lithium and thus creates fewer concerns for battery applications regarding the body. Wearable technology (such as fitness trackers), hearing aids, and heart monitors are potential products that could benefit from the adaptation of zinc technology in the near future.

ZINC IN YOUR FUTURE

This corrosion resistant and highly formidable material is great for outdoor applications and even works great for countertops. What’s even greater is that zinc is known to be an environmentally friendly metal due to its infinite recyclability and low-impact production method. We offer zinc sheets that can be cut-to-size allowing you to purchase just the amount you need, saving you time and money. And with six warehouses nationwide, your order will be shipped fast and arrive quickly and conveniently to your door. Or you can choose our Will Call option and pick up your materials from one of the Online Metals warehouse locations.  

Find out how to utilize zinc and other metals in your kitchen >

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