Hafnium is defined as a silvery, shiny, ductile metal that is chemically similar to zirconium. It is found in numerous zirconium minerals as a tetravalent transition metal. The physical properties of hafnium are markedly hampered by the zirconium impurities, as these metals are difficult to separate due to their chemical similarity. The most notable difference between hafnium and zirconium is their density, as hafnium has twice the density of zirconium. Hafnium possess excellent chemical properties and is resistant to chemicals and oxidation. The metal is even resistant to concentrated alkalis. The usage of hafnium-free zirconium in nuclear reactors in the late 1950s made hafnium easily available. However, the rarity of hafnium and difficult and expensive separation techniques make it a scarce commodity. In zirconium ore, hafnium exists in a ratio of 1:50 to zirconium. Hafnium is produced as a byproduct during the purification of zirconium. Obtained hafnium has high thermal resistance, which makes it useful in numerous applications such as super alloys in industrial turbines and jet engines for aircraft. On the basis of type, the market for hafnium can be segmented into hafnium carbide, hafnium oxide, and others. In terms of application, the hafnium market can be segmented into optical coatings, plasma cuttings, super alloys, and others.
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The hafnium market is anticipated to expand at a moderate growth rate during the forecast period due to the difficult and expensive separation process. There are several driving factors of this market such as rising demand for super alloys for applications in gas turbines and the aerospace industry. Increasing usage of hafnium in nuclear, photographic, and semiconductors applications are likely to present potential opportunities for the hafnium market during the forecast period. In terms of application, the super alloys segment held a significant share of the market in 2016, and is projected to expand at a robust growth rate during the forecast period. Hafnium is employed in alloys with titanium, tantalum, iron, and titanium. Addition of hafnium in small quantities increases the adherence of protective scales in nickel-based alloys. The super alloys segment was followed by the nuclear segment in terms of market share in 2016. Hafnium has applications in nuclear reactors as control rods due its ability to absorb multiple neutrons. Excellent mechanical and corrosion resistance properties possessed by hafnium make it applicable in the harsh environment of pressurized water reactors.
Geographically, Europe held a significant share of the market in 2016, and is anticipated to offer lucrative opportunities during the forecast period. In terms of production and consumption, France held a prominent share of the Europe hafnium market in 2016. The annual supply capacity of hafnium is about 25 tons in France. This is anticipated to augment the hafnium market in France in the near future. Europe was followed by North America and Asia Pacific, in terms of market share in 2016. Rise in usage of hafnium as super alloys in mining and the aerospace industry is a key factor driving the market in North America. Presence of robust manufacturing industry of different end-use industry of hafnium in emerging economies of Asia Pacific such as India and China is estimated to propel the hafnium market in the region. Usage of hafnium in plasma cutting and semiconductor manufacturing are major factors boosting the hafnium market in Asia Pacific.
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Key players operating in the global market for hafnium include Shenzhen Xinxing Metal Technology Co., Ltd., Nanjing Youtian Metal Technology Co. Ltd., China Nulear Jinghuan Zirconium Industry Co., Ltd., and Alkane Resources.