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Zirconium and its Alloys: For Extreme Sulfuric Acid Applications

By Derrill Holmes and Richard C. Sutherlin, ATI Wah Chang |

One of the earliest applications for zirconium in the chemical process industries (CPI) is for sulfuric acid service. Used commonly during the manufacture of chemicals as a catalyst, dehydrating agent, absorbent, or an oxidizing or reducing agent, sulfuric acid is one of the most important and the largest produced inorganic chemicals in the world. Zirconium has been chosen for sulfuric acid environments due to its high corrosion resistance and low environmental impact. It is one of the few materials of construction (MOC) that is resistant to sulfuric acid at its full concentration range, through 70%, and above its boiling temperatures. This article describes the corrosion resistance of zirconium in severe sulfuric acid applications and explains why zirconium is a material of choice for use in these areas. Factors that can affect corrosion resistance, such as alloy composition, impurities, heat treatment, stress, acid concentration and temperature are described. Discussions also include methods for heat treatment of zirconium for improved corrosion resistance in elevated concentrations and temperatures, along with the development of a low-tin zirconium alloy for improved corrosion resistance in higher sulfuric-acid concentrations and…
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