Antimony is present in so many of the objects around us. Like many others, you have likely never heard of this important mineral. In addition to its primary application of hardening lead, antimony continues to dominate the semiconductor industry. Additionally, it is widely used in manufacturing and industrial applications. This metallic commodity naturally exists in the valentinite and stibnite ores. Read on to learn why antimony is so essential.
What Is Antimony?
You can identify antimony through the chemical symbol Sb & atomic number 51. It is classified as a brittle metal with low thermal and electrical conductivity. Antimony is a chemical element with moderate reactivity. At normal temperatures, it does not form any chemical bonds with oxygen. Also, antimony doesn’t react with cold water or acids but dissolves in certain hot acids.
Think of it as a metalloid since it looks and acts like a metal but does not conduct electricity. Manufacturers use pure antimony for devices like infrared detectors and diodes. Antimony exists in metallic (bright, silvery) or nonmetallic (gray powdered) states. Its increasing number of applications has made it an essential mineral, especially in battery production.
What Is The History of Antimony?
Antimony’s importance dates back to World War II, thanks to its heat resistance properties. Fireproofing compounds containing antimony were used to coat tents and truck covers throughout the war. At the same time, the material’s strengthening qualities came in handy in producing hardened bullets and tungsten steel. An alchemist named Basil Valentine supposedly “discovered” the element.
Its primary and most popular application is enhancing other alloys’ strength. In addition to being an essential part of the technology that drives today’s economies, experts say it’s also crucial to maintaining our current standard of living. Some uses are;
- Antimony is commonly used in defense for applications like military gear (ammunition, tanks, sensors, night vision goggles, etc.)
- Thanks to the fireproof property, antimony is used in paints and plastics.
- Nuclear power plants and wind turbines benefit from the mineral’s anti-corrosion qualities.
- Antimony is essential to the tech industry, producing computers, smartphones, vehicles, and semiconductors.
- Ball bearings are another common application.
- Like that used in windows and binoculars, optical glass often contains antimony as a decolorizing agent.
- Used in nuclear reactor startup
- Silicon wafer dopants
How Does Antimony Affect Human Health?
Antimony can be exposed to the skin when working with it or when you come into contact with a hazardous waste site. Long-term exposure to high amounts of antimony in the air can lead to respiratory irritation, heart conditions, stomach issues like diarrhea and vomiting, or even stomach ulcers. Additionally, your skin and eyes may get irritated during direct contact.
Environmental Effects of Antimony
Antimony is a chemical element with the symbol SB known to be present in the elements in small quantities. Soil pollution is one of its primary effects on the environment. Also, it can flow through underground water over extended distances, eventually reaching other bodies of surface water and regions.
Several laboratory experiments on rodents such as rats and rabbits indicate that significant amounts of Antimony can cause death in small animals. Rats have been observed to exhibit cardiac, hepatic, pulmonary, and renal dysfunctions before their end.
However, animals subjected to lower Antimony exposure volumes for a fixed period suffer from thinning hair, damage to the lungs, and irritation of the eyes and skin. Even minimal amounts of antimony are harmful to dogs. According to research, animals exposed to antimony gases for over a few months may have trouble reproducing. The ability of antimony to cause cancer is not yet proven.
The Future of Antimony
The high demand for antimony trioxide in fire safety and plastic production catalyzes the global antimony market. Antimony trioxide is preferred to zinc borates and zinc stannates alternatives. Additionally, the demand for antimony is expected to rise as scientific progress creates new and better applications, whether in current or future markets. Thanks to the rising demand, Asia Pacific will continue to be the market leader in the foreseeable future.
Antimony is super important, no doubt about it! Its recyclability opens up potential growth areas for the industry. It’s important to note that Industrial use of compounds like antimony trioxide & potassium tartrate is discouraged due to potential health risks. Research into the entire scope of antimony’s possibilities is ongoing. Do you have more queries? Oushi Metal is here to help!