Periodic Table -> Barium
Barium DetailsBarium Symbol:
BaBarium Atomic Number:
56Barium Atomic Weight:
137.34What is Barium?
(atomic number 56, symbol Ba) is a chemical element and an alkaline earth metal with a soft silvery color. Because of its reactivity with air, this metallic metal is not observed in its pure form in nature. Barium is found in naturally occurring minerals. Among them are witherite, which is a barium carbonate, barite, and barium sulfate.
Barium occurs in a combination with other elements, including oxygen, carbon, and sulfur. The metal has half the density of iron and is very light. It forms hydroxide by reacting vigorously with water and oxidizes in air. Barium also forms some poisonous compounds by reacting with most of the non-metals.
In terms of its applications, the metal is used in vacuum tubes as oxygen removing and drying agent. Barium is also employed in barium-nickel alloys and in fluorescent lamps. The gas and oil industries use barium compounds to produce drilling mud, which lubricates the drill and makes drilling though rocks easier. Compounds of barium are used to produce rubber, glass, bricks, paint, and tiles. Barium chlorate and nitrate give a green coloration to fireworks. Barium salts give a green color to flames. This occurs, for example, when barium chlorate is added to a burning mixture.
One common barium compound is barium sulfate, employed as a filter in resins, plastics, and rubber. Lithophone is a white pigment produced when it is combined with zinc oxide. Blanc fixe is another white pigment when combined with sodium sulfate. When exposed to light, stones that contain impure barium sulfate start glowing. If charcoal is added and stones are intensely heated, they glow up to 6 years in the dark. These stones have been discovered in the region of Bologna in the 15th century and are known as Bologna stones. Alchemists believed they had magic properties. Notably, the compounds of barium are poisonous. Barium sulfate, however, will not dissolve in water and can be ingested. When swallowed, barium sulfate produces x-ray images because it is a good absorber.
Another barium compound is barium carbonate, which is employed in the production of certain types of glass and ceramics. It is an element of clay slurries and is employed when drilling oil wells. Some chemical solutions are purified with barium carbonate, and other barium compounds are manufactured by using it as base material.
Barium occurs naturally as a mix of 7 stable isotopes. Some 22 isotopes have been identified, and most of them are very radioactive. Barium is found in the minerals witherite in the form of carbonate and in barite – as sulfate. Some deposits of witherite were mined in the northern parts of England till the 1960s. However, almost all the barium today is mined in the form of barite. Extensive barite deposits have been found in India, Germany, Morocco, China, and the United States. Benitoite is a rare gem that contains barium.
With regard to health concerns, the amount of barium that has been detected in water and food is typically not high enough as to become hazardous to human health. People who are exposed to high levels of barium are those employed in the barium industry. Barium is dangerous to health when air containing barium carbonate or barium sulphate is breathed. People living close to hazardous waste sites are also at risk, exposed to it by drinking polluted water, eating plants and soil, and breathing dust.
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