Product Development Manager
Itac uses antimony by incorporating antimony trioxide, Sb2O3, in the fire resistant coatings we make for textiles and films. It acts in synergy with chlorine-containing organic compounds to form free radicals in the flames, which quench combustion. In addition to this, the antimony promotes the formation of a carbon-based char on the surface of the burning material, which prevents continuing vapourisation of the fuel. Antimony oxide can also be incorporated in plastics to improve their fire performance.
Antimony played a big part in the advance of printing. In common with cast iron and water, the liquid form is denser than the solid at temperatures immediately above the freezing point. This implies that when poured into a mould it will expand into the crevices as it sets, forming a perfect cast of the void. Gutenberg exploited this property of antimony and developed an alloy of tin, lead and antimony which had the ideal hardness, smoothness and sharpness of edge for making type for printing presses. A similar material was formerly used for making typewriter keys.
Because of its nature as a semiconductor, antimony has many more modern applications than in simple pesticides and letterpress. It can be used as a Hall Effect sensor for measuring electric current and magnetic fields. It is also used to strengthen lead electrodes in vehicle batteries – pure lead is very soft and would not withstand vibration in an engine cavity without help. A major source of antimony for industrial applications is recycled vehicle batteries. An alloy of antimony with germanium and tellurium (Ge2Sb2Te5) has recently been patented for use in a nanodimensional flexible screen which can display an image less than a tenth of a millimetre in diameter.