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Properties of Zinc: Is Zinc a Metal or Non-Metal?

Zinc is an abundant metal found in the Earth’s crust that has a wide range of industrial and biological applications. Zinc is brittle and has blue-white color at room temperature, but it may be polished to a dazzling sheen. Zinc is a basic metal that is mostly used to galvanize steel, which is a process that protects the metal from corrosion. Zinc alloys, such as brass, are used in a variety of applications, ranging from corrosion-resistant maritime components to musical instruments. Here we will learn uses and properties of zinc in our lives.

What is zinc?

Properties of Zinc: Is Zinc a Metal or Non-Metal?

Zinc is 24th most abundant element in earth’s crust. Basically, zinc is a transition earth metal with the symbol Zn in periodic table. Zinc atomic number is 30 and atomic weight is 65 g/mole. Zinc is an important trace element in the human body, where it is found in high concentration in the red blood cells as an integral part of the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, which causes various carbon dioxide metabolism reactions. Color of zinc is bluish white with the density of – 7.13 g/cm³. At room temperature, structure of zinc is hexagonal which is shown below:

Properties of Zinc: Is Zinc a Metal or Non-Metal?

What is zinc blende?

Properties of Zinc: Is Zinc a Metal or Non-Metal?

The mineral ZnS is referred to as Zinc Blende. The S are arranged in a cubic close packed (face centred) array, while the Zn are arranged in tetrahedral locations in the lattice, yielding an 8 Zn and 16 S Unit Cell.

Properties of zinc

Physical properties of zinc

Physical properties of zinc include its appearance, color, conductivity etc. Zinc is a beautiful bluish-white metal with a high melting point. It belongs to the periodic table’s group IIB. It is brittle and crystalline at room temperature. Zinc is a weak metal with a tensile strength of less than half that of mild carbon steel. Although affordable mechanical parts can be die-cast from zinc, it is generally not used in load-bearing applications. Pure zinc is brittle and has a low toughness, but zinc alloys have a high impact strength when compared to other die casting alloys. Zinc becomes ductile and pliable between 212 to 302 degrees Fahrenheit, but it reverts to a brittle condition at higher temperatures. Zinc has a reasonable conductivity like metals.  Its strong electrochemical properties serve well in alkaline batteries and during the galvanizing process. It’s a moderately reactive metal that reacts with oxygen and other non-metals to produce hydrogen, as well as dilute acids.

Chemical properties of zinc

Zinc reacts quickly with air under normal conditions, gradually forming a dull grey zinc oxide coating. In addition, zinc reacts with halogens, oxygen, chalcogens, alkalis, acids, ammonia and ammonium salts, as well as less reactive metals. Chemical properties of zinc include it as an amphoteric metal because it reacts with both acids and alkalis. When reacting with alkalis, the element creates hydroxo-zincates, which are complex compounds.

Properties of zinc: There are five stable isotopes of zinc that are: 64Zn, 66Zn, 67Zn, 68Zn and 70Zn. From these isotopes of zinc, 64Zn is most abundant (48.6 percent). Twenty-five other radioisotopes have been identified, with 65Zn having a half-life of 244.26 days and 72Zn having a half-life of 46.5 hours being the most abundant and stable. The remaining radioactive isotopes all have half-lives of less than 14 hours and the majority have half-lives of less than one second.

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Alloys of zinc

  • Brass, which is made up of copper and zinc, is one of the most popular alloys of zinc. There are about 600 EN standards for brass, currently in use. The primary varieties of brass are divided into alpha brass, beta brass, alpha-beta brass, gamma brass and white brass based on their crystal structure, which is determined by the copper to zinc ratio. Brass is utilized in musical instruments, valves, and hardware and contains 3-45 percent zinc by weight.
  • Zamak refers to a group of zinc alloys made up of aluminum, magnesium, and copper. They’re distinct in the way that they have a constant amount of aluminium in them which is 4% usually.
  • Tombak is a brass alloy with a low zinc content less than 28% and a high copper content more than 78%.
  • Zinc, aluminum, and silver make up Zinag alloys. They have a low density, corrosion resistant and have strong mechanical qualities.
  • Silver gives the alloy super-plasticity, making it bendable without losing its mechanical qualities.
  • Other zinc alloys include nickel silver, which has 20% zinc by weight and is used in jewelry, silverware, model train tracks, and musical instruments for its gleaming silver look.
  • Die casting alloys with more than 78 percent zinc by weight are known as zinc die casting alloys. To increase die casting qualities and mechanical properties, it commonly contains tiny amounts of Pb, Sn, Cu, Al, and Mg. It’s utilized to create small, complicated shapes that are suitable for machine moving components. The cheapest of these alloys is known as pot metal, and it is used as a low-cost substitute for steel.
  • Bronze sheet metal, also known as Commercial Bronze, is a copper alloy made up of 90% copper and 10% zinc. Because of the high copper concentration, it has a reddish appearance.
  • Finally, lead-free solder is classified as a zinc alloy. Metals such as tin, silver, copper, antimony, bismuth, cobalt, nickel, indium, zinc, germanium and rare earth elements can be used to make lead-free solder. The qualities of the solder paste are determined by the various compositions.

Importance of zinc

Zinc is extracted predominantly from zinc sulfide, zinc blende, or sphalerite ore. Zinc is required for all forms of life on Earth and is found in over 300 enzymes. Zinc is required for normal cellular growth and mitosis, as well as fertility, immune system function, taste, smell, and good skin and vision. It’s most commonly used for galvanizing iron, although it’s also used to make some alloys. It’s used to make roofs and gutters, as well as the negative plates in some batteries.

Uses of zinc

The mineral ZnS is referred to as Zinc Blende. The S are arranged in a cubic close packed (face centred) array, while the Zn are arranged in tetrahedral locations in the lattice, yielding an 8 Zn and 16 S Unit Cell.

Zinc is a mineral that is found in abundance in nature. Zinc concentrations can be found in a variety of foods. Zinc levels in drinking water might vary depending on whether it is stored in metal tanks or not. In the die casting industry, zinc is commonly used. After iron, aluminum, and copper, zinc is currently the world’s fourth most extensively consumed metal. It has excellent corrosion resistance and is well related to other metals. As a result, galvanizing zinc, which is the process of adding thin coats of zinc to iron or steel to prevent corrosion, consumes around half of the zinc produced.

The alloying of zinc with copper to make brass and other metals to form materials used in cars, electrical equipment, and domestic appliances is the next most common usage of zinc. Zinc is utilized extensively in the creation of zinc oxide, which is used as a protective skin ointment in the rubber industry.

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Zinc is also necessary for good health. It is necessary for normal human, animal, and plant development and growth. The quantity of zinc required for the normal functioning of the body’s enzymes and immune system is between 2 and 3 grams in an adult human body. Zinc has a wide range of applications, some of which are listed below:

  • Zinc, which is the primary metal used in the creation of American pennies, is utilized in die casting in the automobile industry.
  • Zinc oxide is a white pigment that is used as a rubber activator and in watercolors and paintings.
  • Plastics, cosmetics, photocopier paper, wallpaper, printing inks and other items contain zinc as a pigment.
  • It is used in the rubber industry as a catalyst and heat disperser.
  • Almost every tablet contains zinc metal, which is known to have anti-oxidant properties that protect the body’s skin and muscles from premature aging.
  • Zinc metal is utilized in a variety of industries, including roofing and zinc oxide production.
  • It is employed in a variety of applications, including sunscreens, solar cells, and nuclear reactors.
  • It aids in the maintenance of the human body’s enzyme equilibrium.
  • It’s a white pigment used in oil-based paints.
  • Zinc oxide is also utilized as a rubber ingredient in the manufacture of automotive tires.
  • Zinc oxide can endure high temperatures and prevents the tires from collapsing when they become too hot.

Effects of zinc

Zinc occurs naturally in air, water and soil, but zinc concentrations are increasing unnaturally as a result of human activities that add zinc to the environment. The majority of zinc is added in industrial processes such as mining, coal and waste combustion, and steel production. Some soils are highly contaminated with zinc and they can be found in regions where zinc is mined or refined, or in areas where sewage sludge from industrial districts has been utilized as fertilizer. Zinc levels in drinking water may be elevated due to industrial sources or toxic waste sites, posing a health risk.

Health effects of zinc

Zinc is a vital trace element for human health. When people don’t get enough zinc, they may lose their appetite, lose their sense of taste and smell, have poor wound healing and develop skin sores. Zinc deficiency can potentially result in birth abnormalities. Despite the fact that humans can tolerate relatively high zinc concentrations, too much zinc can cause serious health problems such as stomach cramps, skin irritations, vomiting, nausea and anemia. High zinc levels can harm the pancreas, disrupt protein metabolism and lead to arteriosclerosis. Excessive zinc chloride exposure might lead to respiratory problems.

In the workplace, zinc contamination can cause a flu-like illness known as metal fever. Oversensitivity is the source of this condition, which will go away in two days. Zinc can be harmful to children who are still in the womb or who have just been born. When their moms have absorbed high levels of zinc, the infants may be exposed to it through their mothers’ blood or milk.

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Effects of zinc on Environment

Zinc production is continue to rise over the world. This essentially means that more zinc is released into the environment. The presence of huge amounts of zinc in the wastewater of industrial units has contaminated the water. This effluent has not been completely cleaned. Rivers are discharging zinc-polluted sludge on their banks as a result of one of the consequences. Zinc has the potential to raise the acidity of water. When fish reside in zinc-contaminated streams, they can collect zinc in their bodies. Zinc can bio-magnify up the food chain when it enters the bodies of these fish.

Zinc can be found in large levels in soils. Animals will absorb zinc quantities that are harmful to their health if farming soils are contaminated with zinc. Zinc that is water soluble and found in soils can contaminate groundwater. Zinc poses a harm not just to livestock but also to plant species. Because of the accumulation of zinc in soils, plants often have a zinc intake that their systems can’t handle. Only a small number of plants have a chance of surviving in zinc-rich soils. As a result, plant diversity around zinc-disposing facilities is limited. Zinc is a severe danger to farmland output because of its effects on plants. Despite this, zinc-containing manures continue to be used. Finally, because zinc inhibits the action of microorganisms and earthworms, it can disrupt soil activity. Because of this, the degradation of biological matter may be significantly slowed.

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