Discovered in 1789, zirconium is found in nature as zircon, ZrSiO4, in beach sands and the beds of streams and lakes, chiefly in Australia and Florida. It is always associated in nature with hafnium.

Zirconium reacts with the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere to form a protective film that prevents further corrosion of the metal. It is known in industry as a tough, corrosion-resistant metal that is suitable for use in high-performance pumps, valves, and building material for jets and rockets. Zirconium has very low neutron absorption capability and it serves as the inner lining of reactors in nuclear submarines and atomic power plants. Its compounds have many miscellaneous applications in ceramics, catalysts, and special alloys. When alloyed with niobium, zirconium becomes superconductive. The sulfate of zirconium is used in tanning white leather.

BCIT Chemistry Resource Center
http://nobel.scas.bcit.ca/resource/