A small fraction of the zircon is converted to the metal, which finds various niche applications. Because of zirconium’s excellent resistance to corrosion, it is often used as an alloying agent in materials that are exposed to aggressive environments, such as surgical appliances, light filaments and watch cases. The high reactivity of zirconium toward oxygen, apparent only at high temperatures, is the basis of some specialised applications as explosive primers and as getters in vacuum tubes.
Materials fabricated from zirconium metal and its oxide (ZrO2) are used in space vehicle parts for their resistance to heat. Zirconia is also a component in some abrasives, such as grinding wheels and sandpaper.
High temperature parts such as combustors, blades and vanes in jet engines and stationary gas turbines are to an increasing extent being protected by thin ceramic layers. These ceramic layers are usually composed by a mixture of zirconia and yttria.