Uses of Antimony
- Around 50% of pure antimony currently produced is used for hardening lead, to make alloys which are then used (mostly) in batteries. However, the hardened alloy also finds use in small arms bullets (and tracer rounds) and cable sheathing among others. Whilst too brittle to be of use in its pure form, antimony makes an excellent alloying material for other metals, providing increased hardness and mechanical strength.
- Babbitt metal, an alloy of tin, copper and antimony is used in machine bearings due to its hard but slippery, lubricant properties.
- Due to its unusal property of expanding on freezing, antimony finds use in making high quality type for mechanical printing presses, as it will fill every corner of a mold effectively.
- When alloyed with tin, antimony makes a type of pewter useful for tableware.
- Increasingly, in highly pure (99.999% or greater) form, antimony is finding applications as a semiconductor, and is used in this way in the production of diodes, Hall effect devices and infra-red detectors.
- Uses of antimony in it's pure (metalloid) form account for only around 10% of antimony produced. The significance of various uses is shown in the pie chart below*:
- Antimony trioxide (SbO3) is a highly effective flame retardant, and has been used for some time in the manufacture of (among other things) clothing, children's toys, and car/aeroplane seat covers.
- Many other antimony compounds find use in the ceramics and glass industries as glazes, paints and pigments, primarily the sulphides, oxides, antimony trichloride and sodium antimonate.
- Hydrated potassium antimonyltartate (KSbC4H4O7·0.5H2O), known also as tartar emetic is used as a mordent in fabric dyeing and medicinally as an emetic and expectorant.
- The brilliant yellow colour of antimony oxide means it is used as a pigment in paints, rubbers, plastics, etc.
- In small amounts, antimony compounds are used in fireworks.
- Uses of antimony in compounds (i.e. not in it's pure metalloid form) account for around 90% of antimony produced. These uses are shown schematically in the pie chart below*:
[*Source data from USGS report, based on US usage statistics.]