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DARPA has been intermittently funding programs in the US to determine the possibility of using a nuclear isomer of hafnium (the above mentioned Hf-178-m2) to construct small, high yield weapons with simple x-ray triggering mechanisms—an application of induced gamma emission.
Critical elements of the transistors, known as gate dielectrics, do not perform as well allowing currents passing through the transistors to leak, reducing the effectiveness of the chip.
To overcome this, Intel and others have replaced the gate dielectrics, previously made from silicon dioxide, with the metal hafnium.
The new materials' development and integration into working components was described by Dr Moore as "the biggest change in transistor technology" since the late 1960s.
Hafnium is a so-called high-K metal and has a greater ability to store electrical charge than silicon dioxide.
This class of materials will also be used in the 32 nanometre devices expected in 2009.
One gram of pure Hf-178-m2 [an isomer] would contain approximately 1330 megajoules of energy, the equivalent of exploding about 317 kilograms (700 pounds) of TNT. Possible applications requiring such highly concentrated energy storage are of interest.
Hafnium is used to make control rods for nuclear reactors because of its ability to absorb neutrons
* As the electrode in plasma cutting because of its ability to shed electrons into air,
Hafnium is estimated to make up about 0.00058% of the Earth's upper crust by weight.
Care needs to be taken when machining hafnium because, like its sister metal zirconium, when hafnium is divided into fine particles, it is pyrophoric and can ignite spontaneously in air (see Dragon's Breath for a demonstration). Compounds that contain this metal are rarely encountered by most people. The pure metal is not considered toxic, but halfnium compounds should be handled as if they are toxic because the ionic forms of metals are normally at greatest risk for toxicity, and limited animal testing has been done for halfnium compounds.