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Antimony has been a well known element since ancient times. Sibnite, antimony sulphide Sb2S3, was used in biblical times to make up eyes; it has been found as crockery in Caldea dated presumably about 4000 b.C., as the product of the fusion of the metal, while other finds covered in copper with Antimony date back to 2500-2000 b.C. in Egypt. Pliny named the element Stibium, while Jabir, about 800 a.D. used the name Antimony; the two names were alternately used both for the element and the sulphide up to Lavoisier‘s time. The confusion about the element was actually bound to the work of the alchemists who wrote several treaties on the subject (as we will afterwards see) trying to hide the knowledge on the element and its compounds.
Symbol Sb, atomic mass 121,760, boiling point 1860 °K, melting point 903,78 °K, density (near r.t.) 6,6979 g/cm3
Antimony compounds in the form of oxides, sulphides, sodium antimonate, and antimony trichloride (SbCl3) are used in the making of fire proof compounds, ceramic enamels, glass, paints, and pottery. Antimony trioxide (Sb2O3) is the most important of the antimony compounds and is primarily used in flame-retardant formulations. These flame-retardant applications include such products as children's clothes, toys, aircraft and automobile seat covers. Also, antimony sulphide is one of the ingredients of the modern match.
Like water, it has the exceptional property of expanding when it freezes. Antimony is, besides, used in alloy with lead, in the manufacture of press characters. Antimony is sometimes found native, but more frequently it is found in the sulphide stibnite (Sb2S3) which is the predominant ore mineral. Commercial forms of antimony are generally ingots, broken pieces, granules, and cast cake. Other forms are powder, and single crystals.
The natural sulphide of antimony, stibnite, was known and used in Biblical times as drug and as a cosmetic. Stibnite is still used in some developing countries as a drug. Antimony has been used for the treatment of schistosomiasis. Antimony binds with sulphur atoms in certain enzymes which are used both by the parasite and human host. Small doses can kill the parasite without causing damage to the patient.
Antimony and its compounds are used in several veterinary preparations like Anthiomaline or Lithium antimony thiomalate, which is used as a skin conditioner in ruminants. Antimony has a nourishing or conditioning effect on keratinized tissues, at least in animals. Tartar emetic is another antimony preparation which is used as an anti-schistosomal drug.
Antimony sulphide is used in the production of matches and in the vulcanization of rubber, in the production of antimony glasses (sulphide mixtures and oxidize of Antimony, as yellow pigment in glass and china manufacturing); the antimony trichloride is called antimony butter for its consistency.
Antimony is used to produce alloy for lead accumulators. Alloy made of lead have been introduced recently with the 2,5-3 % of Sb and arsenic tracks to reduce electric discharge phenomena. At present it finds growing applications in the industry of semiconductors.