The origin of the word zinc is not clear. In the 16th century, the Swiss-German physician Paracelsus used the word zincum, but with no precise definition. In Persia in the 13th century, zinc oxide present in furnace dusts was known as tutie. As this means "something good for the eyes" it was probably the first medical application of zinc.

It was in Zawar, India, probably in the 14th century, that condensation of zinc vapours into metal was achieved for the first time. This process was often refined, using circular kilns similar to those used in glass making, or heating up horizontal retorts in furnaces. Nowadays, the hydrometallurgical process is the standard process used in most parts of the world.

Zn Zinc


  • A bluish-white metal that crystallises in the hexagonal system.
  • On cooling from the molten state it tends to form characteristic large-grained textures known as floral patterns.
  • It is rather brittle at room temperature, but becomes fairly malleable between 100 and 200°C.
  • Zinc has excellent anti-corrosive properties
  • In applications requiring strength, pure zinc is generally inadequate, and alloyed zinc or zinc alloys are used.


Zinc’s anti-corrosive properties enable its use in anti-corrosion paints for example on ships and sea containers and also in galvanizing whereby steel is coated with a fine layer of zinc.

In the chemical industry zinc is used in the form of zinc powders or oxides. Special grades of zinc powders are used in alkaline batteries as well as in certain button batteries. Zinc oxides are also used in the production of ceramics and for vulcanizing rubber.

In the building industry, zinc sheets are used extensively for roofing, flashing and weathering purposes. In these applications it may be used as such, or cut and formed to desired shapes, such as gutters, cornices and pipes. 

Zinc’s impermeability to UV rays enables the use of its oxides in UV blocking applications such as sunscreens or wood coatings.
Zinc is an essential trace element for humans, other animals, plants and for microorganisms. It can be administered as a nutritional supplement.

Zinc is easily die-cast into shapes, but has the intrinsic drawback of not being strong enough to withstand the mechanical stresses that arise in certain applications. For a long time this drawback has been overcome by the use of a series of zinc–aluminium alloys in which aluminium improves the creep strength without affecting the castability.

Together with copper zinc is used to make the alloy brass.


Zinc is recovered from both secondary and end-of-life materials. Residues from the galvanizing industry, die-casting processes are recovered and fed back into the production of zinc oxides, for example. Recycling of old roofing material, brass scrap and steel scrap also accounts for part of the zinc recycled.
Recycling accounts for some 25% of the metal produced globally each year.

For more info see www.zinc.org



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