2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Chemical elements

30 copperzincgallium


Periodic Table - Extended Periodic Table
Name, Symbol, Number zinc, Zn, 30
Chemical series transition metals
Group, Period, Block 12, 4, d
Appearance bluish pale gray
Atomic mass 65.409 (4) g/mol
Electron configuration [Ar] 3d10 4s2
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 18, 2
Physical properties
Phase solid
Density (near r.t.) 7.14 g·cm−3
Liquid density at m.p. 6.57 g·cm−3
Melting point 692.68  K
(419.53 ° C, 787.15 ° F)
Boiling point 1180 K
(907 ° C, 1665 ° F)
Heat of fusion 7.32 kJ·mol−1
Heat of vaporization 123.6 kJ·mol−1
Heat capacity (25 °C) 25.390 J·mol−1·K−1
Vapor pressure
P/Pa 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T/K 610 670 750 852 990 (1185)
Atomic properties
Crystal structure hexagonal
Oxidation states 2
( amphoteric oxide)
Electronegativity 1.65 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies
( more)
1st: 906.4 kJ·mol−1
2nd: 1733.3 kJ·mol−1
3rd: 3833 kJ·mol−1
Atomic radius 135 pm
Atomic radius (calc.) 142 pm
Covalent radius 131 pm
Van der Waals radius 139 pm
Magnetic ordering diamagnetic
Electrical resistivity (20 °C) 59.0 nΩ·m
Thermal conductivity (300 K) 116 W·m−1·K−1
Thermal expansion (25 °C) 30.2 µm·m−1·K−1
Speed of sound (thin rod) ( r.t.) (rolled) 3850   m·s−1
Young's modulus 108 GPa
Shear modulus 43 GPa
Bulk modulus 70 GPa
Poisson ratio 0.25
Mohs hardness 2.5
Brinell hardness 412 MPa
CAS registry number 7440-66-6
Selected isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of zinc
iso NA half-life DM DE ( MeV) DP
64Zn 48.6% Zn is stable with 34 neutrons
65Zn syn 244.26 d ε - 65Cu
γ 1.1155 -
66Zn 27.9% Zn is stable with 36 neutrons
67Zn 4.1% Zn is stable with 37 neutrons
68Zn 18.8% Zn is stable with 38 neutrons
69Zn syn 56.4 min β 0.906 69Ga
70Zn 0.6% Zn is stable with 40 neutrons

Zinc ( IPA: /ˈzɪŋk/, from German: Zink) is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30.

Notable characteristics

Zinc is a moderately reactive bluish-white metal that tarnishes in moist air and burns in air with a bright greenish flame, giving off plumes of zinc oxide. It reacts with acids and alkalis and other non-metals. If not completely pure, zinc reacts with dilute acids to release hydrogen. The one common oxidation state of zinc is +2. From 100 °C to 210 °C zinc metal is malleable and can easily be beaten into various shapes. Above 210 °C, the metal becomes brittle and will be pulverized by beating.


Zinc is the fourth most common metal in use, trailing only iron, aluminium, and copper in annual production.

  • Zinc is used to galvanize steel to prevent corrosion.
  • Zinc is used to Parkerize steel to prevent rust and corrosion
  • Zinc is used in alloys such as brass, nickelled silver, typewriter metal, various soldering formulas and German silver.
  • Zinc is the primary metal used in making American cents since 1982.
  • Zinc is used in die casting notably in the automobile industry.
  • Zinc is used as part of the containers of batteries.
  • Zinc is used in contemporary pipe organ building as a substitute for the classic lead/tin alloy in pipes sounding the lowest (pedal) tones, as it is tonally almost indistinguishable from lead/tin at those pitches, and has the added advantages of being much more economical and lighter in weight. Even the best organ builders will use zinc in this capacity.
  • Zinc oxide is used as a white pigment in watercolours or paints, and as an activator in the rubber industry. As an over-the-counter ointment, it is applied as a thin coating on the exposed skin of the face or nose to prevent dehydration of the area of skin. It can protect against sunburn in the summer and windburn in the winter. Applied thinly to a baby's diaper area (perineum) with each diaper change, it can protect against rash. As determined in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, it is part of an effective treatment for age-related macular degeneration in some cases.
  • Zinc is the fourth most common material used in metal wall tiles, and is used for its germicidal properties in kitchens.
  • Zinc chloride is used as a deodorant and can also be used as a wood preservative.
  • Zinc sulfide is used in luminescent pigments such as on the hands of clocks and other items that glow in the dark.
  • Zinc methyl (Zn(CH3)2) is used in a number of organic syntheses.
  • Zinc stearate is a lubricative plastic additive.
  • Lotions made of calamine, a mix of Zn-(hydroxy-)carbonates and silicates, are used to treat skin rash.
  • Zinc metal is included in most single tablet over-the-counter daily vitamin and mineral supplements. It is believed to possess anti-oxidant properties, which protect against premature aging of the skin and muscles of the body. In larger amounts, taken as zinc alone in other proprietaries, it is believed by some to speed up the healing process after an injury. Preparations include zinc acetate and zinc gluconate.
  • Zinc gluconate glycine and zinc acetate are also used in throat lozenges in an attempt to remedy the common cold.
  • Zinc is used as the anode or fuel of the zinc-air battery/Fuel Cell providing the basis of the Zinc Economy.

Popular misconceptions

The highly characteristic metal counters of traditional French bars are often referred to as zinc bars or vaguely zinc, but actually zinc has never been used for this purpose and the counters are really made of an alloy of lead and tin.



In ancient India the production of zinc metal was very common. Many mine sites of Zawarmaala were active even during 1300-1000 BC. There are references of medicinal uses of zinc in the Charaka Samhita (300 BC). The Rasa Ratna Samuccaya (800 AD) explains the existence of two types of ores for zinc metal, one of which is ideal for metal extraction while the other is used for medicinal purpose. Zinc alloys have been used for centuries, as brass goods dating to 1000– 1400 BC have been found in Israel and zinc objects with 87% zinc have been found in prehistoric Transylvania. Because of the low boiling point and high chemical reactivity of this metal (isolated zinc would tend to go up the chimney rather than be captured), the true nature of this metal was not understood in ancient times.

The manufacture of brass was known to the Romans by about 30 BC, using a technique where calamine and copper were heated together in a crucible. The zinc oxides in calamine were reduced, and the free zinc metal was trapped by the copper, forming an alloy. The resulting calamine brass was either cast or hammered into shape.

Smelting and extraction of impure forms of zinc was accomplished as early as 1000 AD in India and China. In the West, impure zinc as a remnant in melting ovens was known since Antiquity, but usually discarded as worthless. Strabo mentions it as pseudo-arguros — "mock silver". The Berne zinc tablet is a votive plaque dating to Roman Gaul, probably made from such zinc remnants. The discovery of pure metallic zinc is most often credited to the German Andreas Marggraf, in the year 1746, though the whole story is disputed.

The English metallurgist Libavius received in 1597 a quantity of zinc metal in its pure form, which was unknown in the West before then. Libavius identified it as Indian/Malabar lead. Paracelsus ( 1616) was credited with the name "zinc". Postlewayt's Universal Dictionary, the most authentic source of all technological information in Europe, did not mention zinc before 1751.

In 1738, William Champion is credited with patenting in Britain a process to extract zinc from calamine in a smelter, a technology he acquired after visiting Zawar zinc mines in Rajasthan. His first patent was rejected by the patent court on grounds of plagiarising the technology common in India. However he was granted the patent on his second submission of patent approval.

Before the discovery of the zinc sulfide flotation technique, calamine was the mineral source of zinc metal.

Foods and spices that contain the essential mineral zinc
Foods and spices that contain the essential mineral zinc

Biological role

Zinc is an essential element, necessary for sustaining all life. It is estimated that 3000 of the hundreds of thousands of proteins in the human body contain zinc prosthetic groups. In addition, there are over a dozen types of cells in the human body that secrete zinc ions, and the roles of these secreted zinc signals in medicine and health are now being actively studied. Intriguingly, brain cells in the mammalian forebrain are one type of cell that secretes zinc, along with its other neuronal messenger substances. Cells in the salivary gland, prostate, immune system and intestine are other types that secrete zinc.

Zinc is an activator of certain enzymes, such as carbonic anhydrase. Carbonic anhydrase is important in the transport of carbon dioxide in vertebrate blood. It is also required in plants for leaf formation, the synthesis of indole acetic acid (auxin) and anaerobic respiration (alcoholic fermentation).

Zinc deficiency

Zinc deficiency results from inadequate intake of zinc, or inadequate absorption of zinc into the body. Signs of zinc deficiency includes hair loss, skin lesions, diarrhea, wasting of body tissues, and, eventually, death. Eyesight, taste, smell and memory are also connected with zinc. A deficiency in zinc can cause malfunctions of these organs and functions. Congenital abnormalities causing zinc deficiency may lead to a disease called Acrodermatitis enteropathica.

Obtaining a sufficient zinc intake during pregnancy and in young children is a very real problem, especially among those who cannot afford a good and varied diet. Brain development is stunted by zinc insufficiency in utero and in youth.

Zinc toxicity

Even though zinc is an essential requirement for a healthy body, too much zinc can be harmful. Excessive absorption of zinc can also suppress copper and iron absorption. The free zinc ion in solution is highly toxic to plants, invertebrates, and even vertebrate fish. The Free Ion Activity Model (FIAM) is well-established in the literature, and shows that just micromolar amounts of the free ion kills some organisms. A recent example showed 6 micromolar killing 93% of all daphnia in water. Swallowing an American one cent piece (98% zinc) can also cause damage to the stomach lining due to the high solubility of the zinc ion in the acidic stomach. Zinc toxicity, mostly in the form of the ingestion of US pennies minted after 1982, is commonly fatal in dogs where it causes a severe hemolytic anaemia.

Immune system

Zinc salts are effective against pathogens in direct application. Gastrointestinal infections are also strongly attenuated by ingestion of zinc, and this effect could be due to direct antimicrobial action of the zinc ions in the GI tract, or to absorption of the zinc and re-release from immune cells (all granulocytes secrete zinc) or both.

The direct effect of zinc (as in lozenges) on bacteria and viruses is also well-established, and has been used since at least 2000 BC, from when zinc salts in palliative salves are documented. However, exactly how to deliver zinc salts against pathogens without injuring one's own tissues is still being investigated.


Zinc is the 23rd most abundant element in the Earth's crust. The most heavily mined ores (sphalerite) tend to contain roughly 10% iron as well as 40–50% zinc. Minerals from which zinc is extracted include sphalerite (zinc sulfide), smithsonite (zinc carbonate), hemimorphite (zinc silicate), and franklinite (a zinc spinel).

Zinc production

There are zinc mines throughout the world, with the largest producers being Australia, Canada, China, Peru and the U.S.A. Mines and refiners in Europe include Umicore in Belgium, Tara, Galmoy and Lisheen in Ireland, and Zinkgruvan in Sweden. Zinc metal is produced using extractive metallurgy. Zinc sulfide ( sphalerite) minerals are concentrated using the froth flotation method and then usually roasted using pyrometallurgy to oxidise the zinc sulfide to zinc oxide. The zinc oxide is leached in several stages of increasingly stronger sulfuric acid (H2SO4). Iron is usually rejected as Jarosite or goethite, removing other impurities at the same time. The final purification uses zinc dust to remove copper, cadmium and cobalt. The metal is then extracted from the solution by electrowinning as cathodic deposits. Zinc cathodes can be directly cast or alloyed with aluminium.

Electrolyte solutions must be very pure for electrowinning to be at all efficient. Impurities can change the decomposition voltage enough to where the electrolysis cell produces largely hydrogen gas rather than zinc metal.

There are two common processes for electrowinning the metal, the low current density process, and the Tainton high current density process. The former uses a 10% sulfuric acid solution as the electolyte, with current density of 270–325 amperes per square meter. The latter uses 22-28% sulfuric acid solution as the electrolyte with current density of about 1000 amperes per square meter. The latter gives better purity and has higher production capacity per volume of electrolyte, but has the disadvantage of running hotter and being more corrosive to the vessel in which it is done. In either of the electrolytic processes, each metric ton of zinc production expends about 3900 kW·h (14 MJ) of electric power.

There are also several pyrometallurgical processes that reduce zinc oxide using carbon, then distill the metallic zinc from the resulting mix in an atmosphere of carbon monoxide. These include the Belgian-type horizontal-retort process, the New Jersey Zinc continuous vertical-retort process, and the St. Joseph Lead Company's electrothermal process. The Belgian process requires redistillation to remove impurities of lead, cadmium, iron, copper, and arsenic. The New Jersey process employs a fractionating column, which is absent in the Belgian process, that separates the individual impurities, where they can be sold as byproducts. The St. Joseph Lead Company process heats the zinc oxide/coke mixture by passing an electric current through it rather than by coal or gas fire.

Another pyrometallurgical process is flash smelting. Then zinc oxide is obtained, usually producing zinc of lesser quality than the hydrometallurgical process. Zinc oxide treatment has much fewer applications, but high grade deposits have been successful in producing zinc from zinc oxides and zinc carbonates using hydrometallurgy.


The most widely used alloy of zinc is brass, in which copper is alloyed with anywhere from 9% to 45% zinc, depending upon the type of brass, along with much smaller amounts of lead and tin. Alloys of 85–88% zinc, 4–10% copper, and 2–8% aluminum find limited use in certain types of machine bearings. Alloys of primarily zinc with small amounts of copper, aluminum, and magnesium are useful in die-casting. Similar alloys with the addition of a small amount of lead can be cold-rolled into sheets. An alloy of 96% zinc and 4% aluminium is used to make stamping dies for low production run applications where ferrous metal dies would be too expensive.


Zinc oxide is perhaps the best known and most widely used zinc compound, as it makes a good base for white pigments in paint. It also finds industrial use in the rubber industry, and is sold as opaque sunscreen. A variety of other zinc compounds find use industrially, such as zinc chloride (in deodorants), zinc sulfide (in luminescent paints), and zinc methyl or zinc diethyl in the organic laboratory. Roughly one quarter of all zinc output is consumed in the form of zinc compounds.


Naturally occurring zinc is composed of the 5 stable isotopes 64Zn, 66Zn, 67Zn, 68Zn, and 70Zn with 64Zn being the most abundant (48.6% natural abundance). Twenty-one radioisotopes have been characterised with the most abundant and stable being 65Zn with a half-life of 244.26 days, and 72Zn with a half-life of 46.5 hours. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lives that are less than 14 hours and the majority of these have half lives that are less than 1 second. This element also has 4 meta states.

Zinc has been proposed as a " salting" material for nuclear weapons (cobalt is another, better-known salting material). A jacket of isotopically enriched 64Zn, irradiated by the intense high-energy neutron flux from an exploding thermonuclear weapon, would transmute into the radioactive isotope Zn-65 with a half-life of 244 days and produce approximately 2.27 MeV of gamma radiation, significantly increasing the radioactivity of the weapon's fallout for several days. Such a weapon is not known to have ever been built, tested, or used.


Metallic zinc is not considered to be toxic, but free zinc ions in solution (like copper or iron ions) are highly toxic. There is also a condition called zinc shakes or zinc chills (see metal fume fever) that can be induced by the inhalation of freshly formed zinc oxide formed during the welding of galvanized materials. Excessive intake of zinc can promote deficiency in other dietary minerals.

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