What Is Hafnium and Where Do I Use It?

  • Hafnium (element symbol Hf – number 72 on the periodic table) is a hard and ductile metal and very similar to stainless steel in its appearance and chemically to very comparable to zirconium.

  • Hafnium is not found free in nature, but it is always found with zirconium and is retrieved as a by-product of its extraction. Its ores are rare; however, two of these are known: hafnon and alvite.

  • Hafnium is primarily used for super alloys used in the aerospace industry. More specifically, the metal is used in turbine blades, vanes, and industrial gas turbines. It is required that hafnium is used in its purest form for these supper-alloys.

  • The metal is also majorly used in nuclear applications, like nuclear reactors and nuclear submarines. The metal is used due to its high thermal neutron absorption cross section and corrosion resistance qualities but must be used in pure form to work effectively.

  • Other uses are refractory ceramic materials, microchips and nozzles for plasma arc cutting.


Where is Hafnium Produced?

  • France (45%) is the major world producer of hafnium, followed by the United States (41%), Ukraine (8%) and Russia (8%).

  • France approximately produces 30 tones of hafnium each year.

  • 71% of the EU’s supply comes from France.

  • The EU only relies on 9% imported hafnium. The imported hafnium metals to the EU come from China (33%) and Canada (67%).

How Much Does it Cost?

  • Hafnium metal is not traded publicly; therefore, worldwide data and price trends are not readily available.

  • The cost of hafnium is estimated at $120 per 100g

Specific Issues

  • The end-of-life recycling input rate for hafnium is estimated to be 1%. Given its contamination in the nuclear industry and the low percentage content in super alloys, it is very likely that there is no post-use recycling is being carried out currently.

  • Supply of hafnium is heavily dependent on the nuclear industry and its demand for pure zirconium. 

  • It is estimated that hafnium demand for nuclear applications will increase by 4% annually, for alloys in aerospace will increase by 3.6% and for non-aerospace super alloys by 5%.

  • For nuclear control rods, demand is expected to increase by 4% and a 3% increase is expected for all other applications.

  • The applications of hafnium in steel alloys can generally be substituted by other alloy metals, such as magnesium, niobium, tantalum, cobalt and chromium. The corrosion resistance and thermal stress performance of these other metals is similar.

  • 2017 was the first time the metal was added to the EU Critical Raw Materials list, mainly because of its economic importance related to its use in nuclear applications. The supply risk indicator is mainly influenced by the limited number of reported suppliers, causing a quasi-monopoly situation.



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