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Antimony: a flame fighter

April 27, 2015

Antimony is a brittle, silvery-white semimetal that conducts heat poorly. The chemical compound antimony trioxide (Sb2O3) is widely used in plastics, rubbers, paints, and textiles, including industrial safety suits and some children’s clothing, to make them resistant to the spread of flames. Also, sodium antimonate (NaSbO3) is used during manufacturing of high-quality glass, which is found in cellular phones.

Humans have known about stibnite (Sb2S3), a lead gray antimony sulfide mineral, since ancient times. Egyptians used powdered stibnite in black eye makeup to create their signature look. Pedanius Dioscorides, a 1st century A.D. Greek physician, recommended stibnite for skin ailments. French and German doctors in the 17th century prescribed antimony-containing mixtures to induce vomiting. Antimony was later recognized to be an intense skin irritant and a lethal toxin, particularly when swallowed.

In the 11th century, the word antimonium was used by medieval scholar Constantinus Africanus, but antimony metal was not isolated until the 16th century by Vannoccio Biringuccio, an Italian metallurgist. In the early 18th century, chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius chose the periodic symbol for antimony (Sb) based on stibium, which is the Latin name for stibnite.

Publication Year 2015
Title Antimony: a flame fighter
DOI 10.3133/fs20153021
Authors Niki E. Wintzer, David E. Guberman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 2015-3021
Index ID fs20153021
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center