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Science >> Chemistry for Kids >> Periodic Table
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Elements for Kids

Zinc

The element zinc

  • Symbol: Zn
  • Atomic Number: 30
  • Atomic Weight: 65.38
  • Classification: Transition metal
  • Phase at Room Temperature: Solid
  • Density: 7.14 grams per cm cubed
  • Melting Point: 419°C, 787°F
  • Boiling Point: 907°C, 1665°F
  • Discovered by: Known about since ancient times


Zinc is the first element of the twelfth column of the periodic table. It is classified as a transition metal. Zinc atoms have 30 electrons and 30 protons with 34 neutrons in the most abundant isotope.

Characteristics and Properties

Under standard conditions zinc is a hard and brittle metal with a bluish-white color. It becomes less brittle and more malleable above 100 degrees C.

Zinc has relatively low melting and boiling points for a metal. It is a fair electrical conductor. When zinc comes into contact with the air it reacts with carbon dioxide to form a thin layer of zinc carbonate. This layer protects the element from further reaction.

Zinc is fairly active and will dissolve in most acids and some alkalis. However, it does not readily react with oxygen.

Where is zinc found on Earth?

Zinc is not found in its pure elemental form, but is found in minerals in the Earth's crust where it is about the 24th most abundant element. Small traces of zinc can be found in ocean water and the air.

Minerals that are mined for zinc include sphalerite, smithsonite, hemimorphite, and wurtzite. Sphalerite is the most mined as it contains a high percentage (~60%) of zinc. The majority of zinc production is mined in China, Peru, and Australia.

How is zinc used today?

More than half of all zinc that is mined is used for galvanizing other metals such as steel and iron. Galvanizing is when these other metals are coated with a thin coating of zinc in order to prevent them from corroding or rusting.

Zinc is also used to form alloys with other metals. Brass, an alloy made with copper and zinc, has been used since ancient times. Other alloys include nickel silver, zinc aluminum, and cadmium zinc telluride. They are used for a variety of applications including pipe organs, die-casting for auto parts, and sensing devices.

Other applications include sun block, ointments, concrete, paints, and even as a propellant for model rockets.

Zinc also plays an important role in biology and is found in over one hundred enzymes. It is used to build DNA and by cells in the brain used for learning.

How much zinc is in a penny?

Zinc is used with copper to make the U.S. penny. Prior to 1982 the penny had 95% copper and 5% zinc. After 1982 the penny has been made from mostly zinc with 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. Zinc is now used because it is less expensive than copper.

How was it discovered?

Zinc has been used to make the alloy brass (together with copper) since ancient times. The first scientist to isolate the pure metal was German chemist Andreas Marggraf in 1746.

Where did zinc get its name?

A German alchemist name Paracelsus named the metal zinc. It either comes from the German word "zinke" meaning "spiked" (for the spiked shapes of the zinc crystals) or "zinn" meaning "tin".

Isotopes

There are five isotopes of zinc that occur in nature. The most abundant one is zinc-64.

Interesting Facts about Zinc


More on the Elements and the Periodic Table

Elements
Periodic Table

Alkali Metals
Lithium
Sodium
Potassium

Alkaline Earth Metals
Beryllium
Magnesium
Calcium
Radium

Transition Metals
Scandium
Titanium
Vanadium
Chromium
Manganese
Iron
Cobalt
Nickel
Copper
Zinc
Silver
Platinum
Gold
Mercury
Post-transition Metals
Aluminum
Gallium
Tin
Lead

Metalloids
Boron
Silicon
Germanium
Arsenic

Nonmetals
Hydrogen
Carbon
Nitrogen
Oxygen
Phosphorus
Sulfur
Halogens
Fluorine
Chlorine
Iodine

Noble Gases
Helium
Neon
Argon

Lanthanides and Actinides
Uranium
Plutonium

More Chemistry Subjects

Matter
Atom
Molecules
Isotopes
Solids, Liquids, Gases
Melting and Boiling
Chemical Bonding
Chemical Reactions
Radioactivity and Radiation
Mixtures and Compounds
Naming Compounds
Mixtures
Separating Mixtures
Solutions
Acids and Bases
Crystals
Metals
Salts and Soaps
Water
Other
Glossary and Terms
Chemistry Lab Equipment
Organic Chemistry
Famous Chemists


Science >> Chemistry for Kids >> Periodic Table





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