Antimony Uses

Antimony is a metal that is known for its moderate prices in industry requirements and numerous uses of this metal point towards the same trend. Find out more facts about antimony and its uses in this article.
People in ancient civilizations used antimony in the form of sulfides, and ancient women have been known to use it in cosmetics related to eyebrows in very small quantities. Owing to its semi-metallic nature (it is neither a metal nor a non- metal) and numerous chemical and physical properties, large-scale uses of antimony have been possible in the chemical and technological industry.

Antimony Facts
  • Antimony is a chemical element with the atomic number 51 and atomic weight of 121.75. It is represented by the symbol 'Sb'.
  • The electronic configuration of antimony is [Kr]4d105s25p3
  • It belongs to the Nitrogen group (P block element, 5th row) in the periodic table and is known as a metalloid.
  • The Greek words, 'anti' and 'monos' mean, 'not alone'. The name antimony has been derived from the same. This owes to the fact that antimony is rarely found in its native form. It always occurs in combination with heavier elements like copper and lead.
  • Antimony has a silvery white color and its electrical and thermal conductivities are quite less relative to other metals.
  • One of the antimony facts is that it is extremely brittle and can be easily converted into powder form. One of the main characteristics of this metal makes it useful for several purposes. Being brittle, antimony is not useful in its purest form, however, it combines easily with several other materials and imparts hardness and strength to the alloy formed.
  • There are three unstable allotropes of antimony known as black, yellow and explosive.
Uses of Antimony
  • Mostly antimony is used in compounds and not separately in its metalloid forms. Flame retardants, plastic stabilizers, catalysts, ceramics and glass are some of the main areas of antimony uses.
  • By balancing antimony concentration, it is used in fireworks and cracker industry.
  • One of the alloys of antimony, named as Babbitt metal that also consists of tin and copper has been widely used in machine bearings. Presence of antimony in this alloy imparts lubricant properties to the machine bearings.
  • Compounds of antimony like antimony oxide are used in making rubbers, paints and plastics. It is the dark yellow color of antimony oxide that makes it apt to be used in the paint industry.
  • Hydrated potassium antimonyltartate, popular as "tartar emetic" is used as a medicine to induce sweating and also as an emetic (a drug that causes vomiting). Even slight variation in the concentration of this compound can make it a poison. Medical supervision and legal approval is important before using any antimony compounds as medicine.
  • The sulfides, oxides and trichlorides of antimony are widely used in making glazes, paints and ceramics.
  • Antimony trioxide (Sb2O3), generally sold in powdered and liquid forms, is used on a large-scale, as a catalyst in polyethylene terephthalate polymerization. Almost all industries, be it chemical or industrial, textile or paper; all use Sb2O3 as a flame retardant synergist.
  • Antimony has become an extremely popular metal in the semiconductor industry as a n-type dopant for silicon. In the production of diodes and devices that follow hall effect and infra-red detectors antimony is used.
  • Antimony, just like water, has the unique characteristic of expanding when it is freezes! This is why antimony is used in type-metal so that the metal can be molded to mathematical precision. Since antimony expands on cooling, the metal doesn't shrink when it solidifies and so it doesn't pull away from the edges or corners of the metal.
  • In the lead battery manufacturing, antimony is used at a large scale
The above information pointed out to some of the most popular antimony uses. Many studies and results have expressed concern regarding health effects of exposure to antimony. Being just below the toxic element, arsenic, antimony and its compounds are considered very toxic. Antimony poisoning is a fact and studies are being conducted to understand antimony poisoning in a better way.
By Kundan Pandey
Last Updated: 9/27/2011
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