72Hf Hafnium

Year Discovered


Discovered By

Dirk Coster and George von Hevesey of Denmark

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


Named from the Latin name of Copenhagen, hafnium is a lustrous silvery-gray metal that commonly occurs with zirconium. Most zirconium minerals contain a few percent hafnium and the two elements are most difficult to separate. Their chemistry is nearly identical. Hafnium is an unreactive metal, unaffected by air, water, most acids or bases. Like cadmium, it absorbs neutrons, and consequently is used in the control rods of nuclear reactors, especially reactors found on nuclear submarines. It is also used in high temperature alloys, light bulbs and ceramics. Hafnium also is used as a scavenger metal, especially against oxygen and nitrogen.

Biological Benefits

Hafnium has no known biological use.

Role in Life Processes

No known benefits for life processes in plants and animals.


Hafnium minerals are very rare. It is chiefly obtained as a by-product of zirconium processing. Hafnium is recovered from zircon, a heavy mineral that accumulates in placer deposits with titanium minerals. Hafnium is produced in Australia, South Africa and the USA.