Chemical Fact Sheet: Antimony
Antimony - (Gr. anti plus monos - a metal not found alone), Sb; at. wt. 121.760(l); at. no. 51; m.p. 630.63 deg C; b.p. 1587 deg C; sp.gr. 6.691 (20 deg C); valence 0, -3, +3, or +5. Antimony was recognized in compounds by the ancients and was known as a metal at the beginning of the 17th century and possibly much earlier. It is not abundant, but is found in over 100 mineral species. It is sometimes found native, but more frequently as the sulfide, stibnite (Sb2S3); it is also found as antimonides of the heavy metals, and as oxides. It is extracted from the sulfide by roasting to the oxide, which is reduced by salt and scrap iron; from its oxides it is also prepared by reduction with carbon. Two allotropic forms of antimony exist: the normal stable, metallic form, and the amorphous gray form. The so-called explosive antimony is an ill-defined material always containing an appreciable amount of halogen; therefore, it no longer warrants consideration as a separate allotrope. The yellow form, obtained by oxidation of stibine, SbH3, is probably impure, and is not a distinct form. Natural antimony is made of two stable isotopes, 121Sb and 123Sb. Forty four other radioactive isotopes and isomers are now recognized. Metallic antimony is an extremely brittle metal of a flaky, crystalline texture. It is bluish white and has a metallic luster. It is not acted on by air at room temperature, but burns brilliantly when heated with the formation of white fumes of Sb2O3. It is a poor conductor of heat and electricity, and has a hardness of 3 to 3.5. Antimony, available commercially with a purity of 99.999 + %, is finding use in semiconductor technology for making infrared detectors, diodes, and Hall-effect devices. Commercial-grade antimony is widely used in alloys with percentages ranging from 1 to 20. It greatly increases the hardness and mechanical strength of lead. Batteries, antifriction alloys, type metal, small arms and tracer bullets, cable sheathing, and minor products use about half the metal produced. Compounds taking up the other half are oxides, sulfides, sodium antimonate, and antimony trichloride. These are used in manufacturing flame-proofing compounds, paints, ceramic enamels, glass, and pottery. Tartar emetic (hydrated potassium antimonyl tartate) has been used in medicine. Antimony and many of its compounds are toxic. Antimony costs about $80/kg (99.5%), and about 75 ct./g (99.999%).