Antimony is a chemical element with the symbol Sb and 51 is atomic number. It is found in nature mainly as the sulfide mineral stibnite (Sb2S3). China is the largest producer of Sb and its compounds, with most production coming from the Xikuangshan Mine in Hunan. The industrial methods for refining Sb are roasting and reduction with carbon or direct reduction of stibnite with iron.
The name Antimony appears to be derived from the Latin antimonium, in a translation of a work by the alchemist Geber, but its real origin is uncertain.
The largest applications for metallic Sb are an alloy with lead and tin and the lead antimony plates in lead–acid batteries. Alloys of lead and tin with antimony have improved properties for solders, bullets, and plain bearings. Antimony compounds are prominent additives for chlorine and bromine-containing fire retardants found in many commercial and domestic products. An emerging application is the use of antimony in microelectronics.
In 1615 Andreas Libavius, a German physician, described the preparation of metallic antimony by the direct reduction of the sulfide with iron; and a later chemistry textbook by Lémery, published in 1675, also describes methods of preparation of the element. In the same century, a book summarizing available knowledge of antimony and its compounds was purportedly written by a Basil Valentine, allegedly a Benedictine monk of the 15th century, whose name appears on chemical writings over a span of two centuries.
Characteristics of Antimony
- It is stable in air at room temperature, but reacts with oxygen if heated to produce antimony trioxide, Sb2O3.
- Sb is a silvery, lustrous gray metalloid with a Mohs scale hardness of 3, which is too soft to make hard objects; coins of Sb were issued in China’s Guizhou province in 1931 but the durability was poor and the minting was soon discontinued. Sb is resistant to attack by acids.
- Four allotropes of Sb are known: a stable metallic form and three metastable forms (explosive, black and yellow).
- Elemental Sb is a brittle, silver-white shiny metalloid. When slowly cooled, molten Sb crystallizes in a trigonal cell, isomorphic with the gray allotrope of arsenic.