Tag Archive: How does Zinc work to protect steel?

  1. What is Zinc used for and how is it used?

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    Many people love the game Trivial Pursuit, so in honor of the game, here are a few pieces of trivia about Zinc before we tell you about the metal.

    Zinc has been known since medieval times.    It was first used around 1000 A.D. in the area that is today known as India. Marco Polo even noted that he saw the manufacture of Zinc Oxide in Persia during his travels in the 13th Century.  It was often used to forge Brass, which is composed of 45% Zinc and 55% Cooper.  The metal is often seen as the “whitish” metal coating on old-fashioned washtubs and buckets.

    Today, Zinc is primarily used to coat and protect steel from corrosion.  It has been used in this manner for over a century.  Zinc coated (galvanized) steel is the most effective and inexpensive way to protect steel from the corrosive effects of weather, temperature, and oxygen.  And, PZM’s zinc dust is used in Industrial Coatings to protect steel structures.

    There is a process of purifying Zinc to grade called special high grade (SHG) Zinc.  The SHG Zinc is 99.995% pure.  This high purity Zinc is used to avoid Zinc Pest, which is a slow disruption and eventual cracking of Zinc die castings and it is the only zinc that Purity Zinc Metals uses as its feedstock. 


    How does Zinc work to protect steel?  Zinc itself is very strong and has properties that will not oxidize when exposed to elements like water and air.  By coating steel, which corrodes easily in almost any environmental situation, the Zinc protects the steel with a continuously strong metallic barrier that keeps moisture from making contact with the steel.  This is Zinc’s physical barrier, but it also provides  cathodic protection as well and will sacrifice itself before the steel it is protecting.

    Zinc protects steel cathodically by galvanically protecting steel.  If exposed Zinc coated/galvanized steel comes in contact with moisture at a cut edge or a surface scratch, the Zinc that is near the exposed steel will first be “sacrificed” to moisture before the steel begins to corrode.  This is a unique property of Zinc and one of the many reasons that it is used so effectively.

    Various industries use Zinc for many processes and applications.  The main physical property that they desire is high metallic Zinc content.    For the manufacturing sectors, high metallic Zinc powders are used as coatings, plating, and also for chemical and mining applications.

    When Marco Polo noted the manufacture of Zinc Oxide, it is likely he never envisioned the significance of the metal.  Today, without the help of Zinc coating for steel; buildings, bridges, and other large steel structures would be at risk of collapsing as the environment continually ate away at the metal. Fortunately, Zinc coats and protects steel.

    For more information about zinc uses please visit our website!