Solutions from the Start

From our humble beginnings to our current position as leader in the electronic component industry, we continue to make strides towards our mission of making the world a better, safer, and more connected place to live. The dream started in 1919 with the founding of KEMET Laboratories by Hugh S. Cooper at Union Carbide. KEMET was founded after Union Carbide’s purchase of Cooper Research Company, maximizing the small company’s extensive knowledge on metallurgy. Hugh Cooper (metallurgist, chemist, mad scientist) had started Cooper Research Co. in 1916 to further his revolutionary work on rare metals, mainly beryllium and zirconium.

Cooper’s first KEMET patent went into effect in 1926 with his improvements in the production of zirconium oxide. Hugh developed the innovative process to prepare pure zirconium oxide from crude ores of zirconium such as zircon, baddeleyite, and other ferruginous raw materials in a more efficient manner. Zirconium oxide was used predominantly as an opacifier for ceramic arts and dentistry. An opacifier added to the protective glaze of ceramics and dental porcelain to keep the glaze opaque while reducing yellowing over time.

The new procedure created by Hugh determined the exact process and temperature range to create commercially pure zirconium oxide. In the procedure, the crude zirconium ore was mixed with carbon and reduced in an electric furnace to carbid, carbonitrid, or a mixture of these compounds. The reduced product, containing considerable proportions of iron, titanium and silicon, is then crushed and heated in an atmosphere containing chlorin.

The temperature during the chlorination should be maintained within limits of 450 – 650°C. Within this temperature range, the highly volatile chlorids of titanium and silicon are eliminated during the early stages of the chlorination. The contamination of the product by iron, which is very pronounced above the temperature range, is so far avoided that the anhydrous chlorid is directly available for transformation into commercially pure zirconium oxide.

The rich history of innovation at KEMET continues to this day, with our continual pursuit of improvement, charged by the spirit of curiosity and creativity passed down by our founder Hugh S. Cooper.

Read about the full patent information here.