Periodic Table -> Antimony


Antimony Details

Antimony Symbol: Sb

Antimony Atomic Number: 51

Antimony Atomic Weight: 121.760

What is Antimony?

Antimony (Sb, atomic number 51) is a toxic chemical element. It is classed among the group of metalloids. Metalloids are elements that are neither purely metal nor non-metal. Other metalloids include boron, silicon, germanium, arsenic, and tellurium. The status of polonium is disputed, although this element is often classed among the metalloids as well.

The use of antimony is limited owing to its excessive toxic properties. The compounds of this element, however, have proven of great use in terms of chemical developments. They serve to reduce the flammability of fuels and postpone combustion, which is why they are important fire retardants and are used in many commercial products for industrial and domestic use. Antimony is increasingly being used in microelectronics.

A compound of antimony, antimony (III) sulfide, was known to man as far back as 3000 BC. It is not known who discovered it, however. Pieces of a vase dating to this time period were found on the territory of what is Iraq today. A copper object plated with this element was found in Egypt as well. These discoveries testify to the early use of antimony. Some scientists dispute that what was found is indeed antimony because the metal is very brittle. Others counter that what was found was natural antimony, which has different properties. The truth of the matter is unknown as of yet.

There is more information about the etymology of antimony. It comes from antimoine in French, which means monk-killer or anti-monk. Most of the early chemists and scientists were monks, and many perished in view of the element’s highly toxic properties. There is also a word in Greek, antimonos, which means “against one”. This is taken to mean “not observed in metal”.

There are two isotopes of antimony - 123Sb with a natural abundance of close to 43 percent and 121Sb with a natural abundance of over 57 percent. The longest-lived of its 35 radioisotopes is 125Sb with a half-life of 2.75 years.

There are three types of compounds of antimony – halides, oxides and hydroxides, and hydrides, antimonides, and organoantimony compounds. The latter are usually prepared by combining Grinard reagents with antimony halides. A number of compounds are known with Sb (V) and Sb (III) centers such as cations, anions, and chloro-organic derivatives. Antimonides are formed with metals, including silver antimonide and indium antimonide.

As mentioned, this element is mainly applied in the manufacturing of flame-proofing compounds. Possible markets for such products include kids’ toys and clothes, aircraft, and automobile seat covers. Antimony is added to polyester resins to manufacture light aircraft engine covers. It also has a multitude of uses in the fiberglass composites industry.

Antimony is fused with lead and the resulting alloy (solid solution) is used in lead-acid batteries. Other alloys incorporating the element are used to make bullets, cable sheaths, solder, and even organ pipes. When used in alloys, antimony serves to increase the mechanical strength and hardness. In the semiconductor industry, it is used to manufacture diodes, hall-effect devices, and infrared detectors.

There are also some medical uses of antimony. One use is as hydrated potassium antimonyl antimonate (tartar emetic). In addition, antimony is used in the production of enamels and colorings in ceramics and pottery. The manufacture of semiconductors in the electronic industry makes use of antimony as well.

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