Zirconium dioxide (ZrO2), which is also referred to as zirconium oxide or zirconia, is an inorganic metal oxide that is mainly used in ceramic materials. Zirconium dioxide succeeds zirconium as the compound of the element zirconium that most frequently occurs in nature. Zircon is also known as a precious stone whose color may vary from colorless white to brown, green, etc., depending on the traces of impurities.
Zirconia can be used to make ceramics, and it is this use of zirconia which has most excited scientists over the past few years.
One of the new applications is knives and scissors, where the zirconia ceramic can be engineered to produce extremely fine and sharp blades which have a hardness of about 9 on the Mohs scale (on which diamond has a value of 10). This is significantly harder than steels, and of course, ceramics do not rust.
As a result of their strength, hardness and other properties, zirconia ceramics are being considered for a huge range of industrial applications which include motor engine components, high speed cutting tools, heat resistant linings in furnaces, containers for molten metals and heat shields for space vehicles. Zirconium oxide is also used in dentistry for the crowning of teeth because of its biocompatibility, strength and appearance.
Cubic zirconia gemstones (‘fake diamonds’) — the optical properties of which are superior to those of diamonds.