Antimony is a metalloid with a shiny silver grey color in its natural solid state. It is a crystalline solid, and as a metalloid it has poor heat and electrical conductivity traits. Antimony has an atomic mass of 121.760, a melting point of 1167.13 °F, and a boiling point of 2889 °F. The main use of antimony is as a hardener added to lead for storage batteries; antimony is also used in matches, plumbing, soldering, and as a semiconductor for diode production.
Antimony does occur freely in nature, but not in large enough amounts to satisfy commercial needs. Isolation procedures are used to extract antimony from mineral ore.
Antimony occurs in over 100 types of minerals. The mineral stibnite, or antimonite, is the mineral that is used most often for antimony isolation; it is a sulfide mineral composed of antimony and hydrogen sulfide. Antimony can be separated from antimonite through two processes. In the first process, antimonite is reacted with pure iron on a one to three basis; the result of the reaction forms pure antimony and iron sulfide. The second separation process of antimony uses charcoal to extract antimony from the hydrogen sulfide. In this reaction, antimonite and charcoal combined with sodium sulfate are heated resulting in a reduction reaction; the sodium sulfate is necessary to completely mix the antimonite with the charcoal. Pure antimony and carbon monoxide are produced from this reaction. Pure antimony and its compounds are toxic; the toxicity of antimony is so severe that it can even mimic arsenic and so it must be handled with caution.
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