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zirconium hydride powder is used as a foaming agent in metallurgical applications such as aluminum smelting and as an initiator for fusion welding. It is a highly reactive metal that can react with water to produce hydrogen gas in the form of hydrides, which are capable of carrying electric currents. This is due to its high conductivity and magnetic properties (unless contaminated with ferromagnetic impurities). Zirconium hydride can also react with oxygen to form metallic zirconia.
It is important to note that zirconium hydride powder can be dangerous and explosive, especially when exposed to heat or sparks. Zirconium hydrides are also susceptible to thermal decomposition, and can form hydrogen gas when subjected to heat or pressure. This reaction may cause a fire or explosion, and can be a serious health and safety hazard to employees, customers and visitors.
In the presence of hydrogen, zirconium forms a variety of structural compounds with very different properties. Depending on the concentration and temperature of the hydrogen, it can form one stable phase or two metastable phases (see Fig. 1 >). At room temperature and low hydrogen concentration, solid zirconium has a hexagonal close rich structure called the a-zirconium phase. At higher temperatures, the a-zirconium phase transforms into a body-centered cubic structure known as the b-zirconium phase.
The strong temperature dependence of the hydrogen solubility and the high diffusivity of hydrogen in a-zirconium can lead to significant redistribution of hydride precipitates over the surface of a crystalline zirconium sample. This can result in stress-induced reorientation of hydride precipitates or in the formation of hydride blisters in cold spots. This is particularly a problem in a-zirconium alloys that are subjected to temperature fluctuations such as those experienced during startup, shut downs, or power fluctuations in nuclear reactors.