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What Is Hafnium and Where Do I Use It?​​


  • Hafnium (Hf) is a chemical element that was discovered in 1923 and its name is derived from the Latin name for Copenhagen “Hafnia”. Hafnium is a hard, ductile metal similar t!o stainless steel in its appearance and chemically very similar to zirconium. For this reason, zirconium is discussed on several occasions in this factsheet.


  • In nature, hafnium is always bound up with zirconium compounds, from which it needs to be extracted using advance metallurgical processing (ALKANE, 2017). Its main commercial sources are zircon and baddeleyite; these are available as by-products from the extraction of titanium minerals (Nielsen & Wilfing, 2010).


  • 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?


  • The global producers of hafnium are France 49%, USA 44%, China 3% and Russia 3%.


  • The hafnium market is relatively small, highly concentrated and, since hafnium is a by-product of zirconium metal purification, strongly linked to the zirconium market (European Commission, 2020). On the demand side, the developments in hafnium's major application areas, super alloys for aerospace industry and nuclear rods, will have a significant effect on hafnium prices in the future (cf. European Commission, 2020; Mordor Intelligence, 2020).

Global Market


  • The global production of hafnium between 2016 and 2020 was an average of 71 tonnes.


  • Hafnium is a by-product of a certain part of zirconium production. Hafnium is obtained during zirconium metal purification, which is a process step for the use of zirconium in the nuclear industry (European Commission, 2020). 

  • As there are no other current alternatives to produce hafnium, the zirconium demand for the nuclearindustry drives the hafnium production. 


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.

  • 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.

  • Elemental hafnium is a flammable solid and catches fire spontaneously if exposed to air (ECHA, 2022). The (US Occupational Safety and Health Standards, 2022) subpart Z “Limits for Air Contaminants” sets a limit of 0.5 mg/m3 of air as an 8-hour concentration for hafnium.



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