zirconium chemical element sign

Zirconium heat exchangers

Zirconium is used in heat exchangers thanks to its almost unparalleled corrosion resistance. For example, it can withstand nitric acid concentrations of up to 95% at temperatures up to 204°C. In the right applications, zirconium heat exchangers protect against corrosive leaks, improving the longevity of the equipment and providing low maintenance costs over the lifetime of the equipment.

Sterling TT is a specialist heat exchanger manufacturer. We can design and manufacture zirconium heat exchangers or use other specialist materials. Want to know more? Simply get in touch or explore more of our website.

You might also be interested in key considerations for bespoke heat exchangers.

Features of zirconium heat exchangers

In the right application, zirconium heat exchangers have the below advantages.

  • Extreme corrosion resistance, even at high temperatures,
  • An extended service life, compared to alternative materials,
  • A cost-effective product over the heat exchanger’s lifecycle
  • High -pressure solutions to improve heat transfer rate and efficiency as well as reduce equipment size,
  • Reduce or eliminate downtime due to repairs and maintenance,
  • Fully bespoke designs.

Zirconium can be used to design and manufacture shell and tube heat exchangers, condensers, reboilers, CACW coolers and more.

About zirconium

zirconium chemical element signZirconium (Zr) is an extremely stable metal that doesn’t absorb neutrons. Zirconium alloys have superior thermal properties compared to other traditional materials. Around 90% of the world’s zirconium is used in nuclear power plants, thanks to this property. It’s also malleable, making it useful for a wide variety of manufacturing purposes.

The key property of zirconium that makes it useful for heat exchangers is its corrosion resistance. Similar to titanium, it oxidises to form a film over the metal. This protects it from a wide range of acid and alkali attacks.

Zirconium can resist attack from most organic and mineral acids and strong alkalis. It has excellent resistance to salt corrosion too, therefore, it can be used in seawater applications.

Zirconium heat exchanger applications

Zirconium heat exchangers can be suitable for a wide range of applications. Some of which are detailed below.

Chemical plants

One of the main applications for zirconium heat exchangers is in chemical processing. It is resistant to corrosion from a wide range of acids and alkalis, as well as some molten salts, making it extremely useful in chemical processing.

Materials that zirconium heat exchangers can handle include:

  • Sulfuric acid
  • Nitric acid
  • Melamine
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Formic acid
  • Ammonium sulphate
  • Aluminium chloride
  • Acetic acid

These are just a few of the acids, alkalis and other substances that zirconium heat exchangers can process.

Seawater applications

Seawater can be a popular choice of coolant in many processes involving heat exchangers. However, the salt and other minerals can be highly corrosive, leading to damage to heat exchangers over time. Zirconium heat exchangers, however, can withstand this corrosion and have a long lifespan even in seawater applications.

Petrochemical industries

The handling of petrochemicals often leads to fouling and damage within the equipment that can’t properly process the harsh materials. Zirconium provides a reliable solution that can extend the lifespan of the equipment, making it more cost-effective compared to alternative metals.

Alternatives to zirconium

A zirconium heat exchanger will not be appropriate for every application. Your specific requirements might be more suited to an alternative material such as titanium or tantalum. Read more about heat exchanger materials on our blog.

If you are interested in a zirconium heat exchanger, designed to your requirements, get in touch with us today.