The major use of zinc is to galvanise steel in order to stop it corroding. This is because zinc oxidises more readily than iron, meaning it loses electrons more easily; chemists describe zinc as acting as the sacrificial anode, as oxidation occurs at the anode.
The transition metal was well-known to the ancients who alloyed zinc and copper to make brass.
Zinc is also well-known as a UV protector and turns up in sunblock (think cricketers' noses) as well as paint.
You can also find zinc in car tyres, added to foods such as cereals and in anti-dandruff shampoo, says Professor Allan Blackman from the Auckland University of Technology, in episode 95 of Elemental.
The Elemental podcast is celebrating 150 years since the periodic table was first published by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.
Find out more about events during the United Nation’s International Year of the Periodic Table.
Professor Allan Blackman is at Auckland University of Technology.