Fun Facts about Zinc

Zinc is one of Earth's most abundant elements, and although you may not realize it, is an important part of our daily lives. It has serves as a dietary supplement to keep us healthy, an anti-corrosion agent for our batteries, a lead substitute to keep us safe, and much more. Below you find eight interesting facts about zinc and how it affects us.

1. Zinc's use has been traced back over 2500 years. The earliest documented use was in ancient ornaments and decorations found in eastern countries. Alchemists also produced zinc oxide, which they called “philosophers wool.”

2. Over fifty countries produce zinc, the largest being China, which tops 3,500,000 tons per year! A majority of zinc mined comes from underground sources in the form of zinc ore. After being mined, it must undergo processing as it isn't pure enough to be smelted.

3. Most zinc produced is used in galvanizing. This process is usually used to protect iron or steel from corrosion. It's properties make it more reactive than surrounding metals, meaning the corrosion (usually rust) is attracted to the zinc. This makes the metals much more durable in harsh environments, reducing the need for periodic replacement.

4. Brass alloy contains 3% to 45% zinc, with the remainder being copper. Brass is used to form many common items such as: musical instruments, decorations, building hardware, and tools. Other common zinc alloys include nickel silver, electrical solder, and a lead substitute in water pipes.

5. Zinc can help you stay young! It is believed to have anti-oxidant properties, which keep our skin and muscles from aging. It is available in dietary supplements, as well as in many natural foods. There is also a belief that zinc can help to shorten the length of the common cold as a homeopathic treatment.

6. Although zinc is helpful in moderation, an excess is dangerous both to humans and to the environment. It can reduce the rate our bodies absorb copper and iron, and inhalation has shown to cause a symptom called the “zinc shakes”. Processing facilities have also been shown to increase the heavy metal content in bodies of water. Additionally, high zinc levels in the soil can rob plants of the ability to absorb nutrients.

7. Back to science. Zinc's atomic number is 30, meaning an atom has thirty protons in the nucleus. It's atomic weight is 35.38, and has a melting point of 787.1 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a shiny blueish-white color in it's pure form and is hard and brittle.

8. Zinc can only be created by nuclear fusion from supernovas. When massive stars reach the end of their life, they can explode and erupt their contents into space. This is the primary source of most heavy elements in the universe.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of zinc and how it forms the building blocks for many things we regularly depend on. Without it our buildings would rust away, our bodies would wilt, and our economy would suffer.