Zinc In Construction and Its Benefits
“Committed to promoting creative applications of zinc.- NedZink
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, architects in the US started making sheet-based roofs using zinc. While it was all but forgotten in the years after WWII, due to the production of cheaper thermoplastic and synthetic rubber, pure zinc is now regaining popularity – mainly due to an increased demand for eco-friendly building materials.
Zinc, a silvery-white metal, is a natural element, and the 24th most abundant metal in the Earth's crust. Like other metals, zinc can be used to form certain compounds – for example, the first alloy ever created was brass, which is a combination of pure zinc and copper.
Long before the mining industry grew, zinc was extracted from ores, which are rocks that also contain other metals, like lead and copper.
A Brief History of Zinc
While zinc was known to the Greeks and Romans before 20 B.C., it was not mas produced until the 12th century. Before being identified as a separate metal by the Swiss-German physician, Paracelsus (1493-1541), zinc was commonly used to make weaponry, buckets, and wall plaques around the world.
In fact, Europeans did not begin smelting zinc before the end of the 18th century; and this process was only adopted by the Americans in mid-19th century.
Today, zinc is one of the most in-demand metals in the world; while it’s primarily used as a corrosion resistant coating for galvanizing steel and iron, it has multiple applications in the world of health, medicine, agriculture, etc.
Mining and Commerical Use
Known as ‘spelter’ in the world of commerce, zinc is the 4th most used metal in the world, with a market of $40 billion. While the largest zinc mine in the world is located in Rajasthan, India, over 50 countries around the world mine zinc; with China, Australia, Canada, and the US being the largest producers.
Currently, zinc is used around the world for roofing, and exterior cladding on buildings and other structures. To add to its uses, zinc alloys are an ideal material for die casting, which is one of the most commonly used manufacturing processes. Its applications are widespread, and zinc alloy die casting can be used for numerous decorative and functional purposes.
Benefits of Zinc
Durable and Resistant to Corrosion
One of the major problems while constructing with iron or steel (an alloy of iron and carbon), is the formation of rust, due to moisture in the air. This issue is eliminated when zinc is used, as it wards off corrosion
Pure zinc forms a thin protective layer, called Patina, which protects the material from natural elements such as air and water. This is why zinc is used to coat and galvanize iron and steel; it keeps them safe from corrosion, and adds to the durability of the material.
Consider this: the first zinc roofs were made by the Europeans in the 19th century, and they are still intact after all these years! This is due to the “self-healing” nature of zinc, meaning that in an exterior environment – scratches would re-develop patina and thus “heal.”
Available and Practical
With 5 different isotopes or variants, Zinc, including aluminum and iron, are some of the most commonly used metals in a number of industries.
It is readily available, easy to use, and requires simple handling; these are some of the reasons why zinc is so popular among builders and architectural firms around the world.
Awarded The “Green” Tag
Green construction is quite popular nowadays, especially due to extreme climate changes around the world. Construction firms and home owners are both working to reduce energy costs, and production of harmful emissions.
Known as a “green” metal, Zinc requires less energy to produce, compared to other metals like aluminum and copper. It also has a relatively lower melting point, and can be recycled indefinitely without loss of its chemical or physical properties.
Fun Facts About Zinc
- Despite being a metal, Zinc is an essential nutrient for both humans and plants. Zinc is found in cells present in the human body and is vital for supporting the immune system and many biological functions including: disease resistance, wound healing, and digestion. It also amplifies the sense of taste and smell
- Zinc has such a long half-life, that its radioactivity is almost non-existent
- Zinc has been in use as early as 1000 B.C.
- Pure zinc releases hydrogen gas on contact with sulfuric acid
- Zinc has a high boiling point of 907*C, and high electrical conductivity
- When burned, zinc produces a bright blue-green flare
- Zinc can be blended with, and even used, to highlight other materials, making it popular for constructing facades