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Hafnium

Global demand for hafnium is on the rise, as its unique properties make hafnium important for a diverse range of applications in key future industries. Hafnium metal is currently highly desired for certain aerospace and industrial alloys, while hafnium oxide is emerging as a material of choice in semiconductors and data storage devices. Australian Strategic Materials offers a unique source of hafnium that is independent of both the Chinese nuclear zirconium industry and the traditional zircon industry.

Product information: Hafnium

Hafnium will be produced and supplied as hafnium chloride and hafnium dioxide powders at a number of different product specifications. Exact chemistries and particle properties will be designed based on market demand, with no more than 1% zirconium present and purities of up to 3N (99.9%) available for use in semiconductor applications.

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A new source of hafnium

In its natural state, hafnium is always bound up with zirconium compounds, from which it needs to be extracted using advanced metallurgical processing. Until recently, hafnium has only ever been extracted from zirconium when high-purity zirconium is required for nuclear energy applications. This has limited world production to around 70tpa, of which at least 75 per cent comes out of China.

Australian Strategic Materials will recover hafnium from the zirconium processing circuit at the Dubbo Project in Central Western New South Wales, Australia. Start-up production will be around 50tpa in the form of hafnium chloride and hafnium dioxide; however, the Dubbo Project has the potential to produce up to 200tpa hafnium to support escalating global demand. This will make Australian Strategic Materials a significant global source of hafnium that is independent of both the Chinese nuclear zirconium industry and the traditional titania mineral sands and zircon industry.

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High-temperature turbines

Nickel-based superalloys containing hafnium are used in jet engines and land-based industrial gas turbines for power generation, owing to their high strength and stability when operating at very high temperatures. This accounts for nearly 60% of current world hafnium demand.

Aerospace

Owing to the high-temperature performance of hafnium and its compounds, the aerospace industry is using hafnium for more than jet engines. A niobium-based alloy containing 10% hafnium is being used for rocket engine nozzles, while hafnium-based ultra-high-temperature ceramics are used for thermal shielding.

Plasma cutting inserts

The high melting point of hafnium and resistance to degradation in oxygen-rich environments and high temperatures makes it ideal for use in plasma cutting tips and welding torches.

Plastics manufacturing

Commodity thermoplastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene are made using hafnium-based catalysts.

Nuclear power generation

Being an excellent neutron absorber and corrosion-resistant in hot water, hafnium is used in combination with other compounds in commercial control rod assemblies for nuclear reactors.

Microelectronics and communications

Hafnium in thin film oxide form is used as high-k gate insulators on microchips for minimisation and improved efficiency, while also emerging as a new breed of permanent memory. Hafnium oxide also has application as a surface coating for optical fibres and dielectric mirrors.

Hafnium in future industries

Many future industries will rely on hafnium in a wide range of applications. Some of these include thermoelectric materials for converting heat into electricity in vehicles, radiative cooling materials to replace air conditioning in buildings, and hafnium oxide nanoparticles in radiation oncology to destroy cancer cells.