Fun Facts About Zinc
Don’t call it a comeback; zinc has been here for years. U.S. architects in the late 19th and early 20th centuries relied on the chemical substance for making sheet-based roofs. And while zinc was eclipsed in the post-World War II years by cheaper options such as thermoplastic, asphalt shingles, and synthetic rubber, it is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity due to increasing demand for eco-friendly products. Zinc panels offer three main benefits, in addition to a long track record of worldwide use.
Known as spelter in commerce, zinc is a silvery-white metal mined from the earth. The largest mineable amounts of zinc in the world can be found in the U.S., Australia, and Asia. In ancient times, the zinc that was used was extracted from rocks (known as ores), which contained other metals such as lead and copper. In fact, long before zinc was discovered in metallic form, zinc was used to manufacture alloys such as brass, which is a combination of zinc and copper, and was used throughout the world for a variety of applications that included weapons, buckets, and wall plaques. The idea of zinc as a separate metal was originated by Swiss German physician Paracelsus (1493-1541), who insisted that zinc was a new metal; he is credited with giving zinc its first name: zincum. By the end of the 18th century, Europeans had begun smelting zinc, and the process spread to the U.S. by the mid-19th century. In the construction world in particular, it is is most commonly used for roofing and zinc panels.
Benefit 1: Durability and Corrosion Resistance
Perhaps zinc’s best known benefit is its ability to keep away corrosion. Due to iron and steel (an alloy of iron and carbon), people have this general idea that metals used for construction are prone to moisture and rust. That is not so with materials made from zinc. That’s because zinc forms a thin layer called patina. This patina covers the material and thus protects it from weather elements, such as air and water. In fact, thanks to this attribute, zinc is used for coating, or galvanizing, iron and steel to inhibit corrosion. Another thing that patina does is repair the roof’s scratches and other imperfections. Europeans started using zinc to make roofs in the 19th century, and they still remain in great shape after all these years because of the self-repairing abilities of the metal. So, ultimately zinc is a very durable metal to use for construction.
Benefit 2: Availability and Workability
Available in five variants, or isotopes, zinc is the 24th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Moreover, alongside iron, aluminum, and copper, zinc is now one of the most commonly used metals in the world. So, zinc is rarely ever scarce; it is always available locally, and it has several applications in the modern world that go beyond construction. Zinc is also a favorite of home builders and architectural firms due to its ease of use; people find it very easy to form or manipulate.
Benefit 3: Qualification as “Green” Material
These days, going “green” (environmentally friendly) is all the rage. Individuals and companies are always looking for ways to reduce energy costs and reduce or eliminate harmful impact to the environment. Zinc is great for eco-friendly construction for two reasons. Once, it requires less energy for production than other metals, such as aluminum and copper, due to its lower melting point. And two, zinc is complexly recyclable, since it can be produced from recycled materials taken from demolished or re-roofed structures.