This is one of the oldest known elements, probably being known to the ancients and certainly known to the alchemists.
It does not naturally occur in the metallic state. Its main source is stibnite, a sulphide ore Sb2S3, which can be extracted with the reduction of iron or carbon.
The most stable form of this element has a metallic appearance, being white or bluish in colour. Sb will burn in air but is not attacked by water or dilute acids, however it is attacked by oxidising agents and halogens.
The pure metal is brittle with little strength and is a poor conductor of heat and electricity, but a good light reflector. It is also a metalloid having many characteristics of non-metals.
Sb is widely used in alloys where it lowers the melting point and reduces the solidification contraction when alloyed with lead.
Antimony provokes vomiting and was once prescribed for this purpose but medical dose is near to toxic dose and can kill.
Relative Atomic Mass
It wasn’t Salieri but more likely antimony that killed Mozart. According to John Emsley’s book ‘Elements of Murder’, Antimony was much used in the 18th century as a purgative and emetic, and was prescribed particularly for the symptom of Melancholia which Mozart suffered from. It may have been that Mozart was just one of those people susceptible to Antimony poisoning.
Antimony’s more mundane uses today are really all about safety i.e. flame retardants composed of Antimony Trioxide, used in aircraft seats and a whole host of products in the home. At one point it was suggested that cot death syndrome was caused by the vapors of Antimony, but this has never been proved.
I was once able to prevent a possible disaster for an eminent US lawyer whose hobby was making metal soldiers in his spare time. I noticed he was preparing the molten lead and mixing it with Antimony in an unventilated room over a small furnace, with his head well over the crucible. He now buys tin soldiers.
As regards car batteries, these lead acid batteries containing Antimonial lead have been the mainstay of the car industry for decades. Today, China is the largest producer in the world producing what we call Antimony Regulus (Latin for ‘King’). 110,000 tons per year (2004) is about the world production in all forms, and South Africa, Bolivia and Turkey are significant producers too.
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