What is antimony used for

Antimony, a metallic element with chemical symbol Sb and atomic number 51, has a rich history associated with human civilization dating back thousands of years. This shiny gray metalloid has unique properties that have made it invaluable in a variety of industries. From ancient cosmetics to modern technology, the applications of antimony span a wide spectrum, contributing to advances in science, medicine, and everyday life.

what is antimony used for

Historical significance:

The use of antimony can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt, where it was used in cosmetics as far back as 3000 BC. Antimony compounds were used to blacken eyebrows and eyelashes, a practice that continued for centuries. In medieval times, alchemists recognized its unique properties, associating it with symbols of transformation and purification.

Modern Applications:

Fire extinguisher:

One of the primary applications of antimony is in flame retardants. Antimony trioxide (Sb2O3) is commonly used as a synergist with halogen-based flame retardants to enhance their effectiveness. It works by releasing water vapor and forming a protective layer on the surface of the material, thereby reducing flammability. This makes it invaluable in industries such as textiles, plastics and electronics, where fire safety is paramount.


Antimony is often alloyed with other metals to impart desirable properties. For example, antimonial lead is used in lead-acid batteries, providing superior mechanical strength and corrosion resistance. Babbitt metal, an alloy of antimony, lead and tin, is used in bearings because of its low friction properties.

Semiconductor industry:

Antimony is an important component in the production of semiconductors. It is used as a dopant in silicon wafers to alter their electrical conductivity, allowing the creation of transistors, diodes, and other electronic components essential to modern technology. Antimony compounds are also used in the manufacture of infrared detectors and optoelectronic devices.


Some antimony compounds act as catalysts in chemical reactions. For example, antimony pentoxide (Sb2O5) is used in the production of polyester fibers and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resins. This accelerates the esterification and polymerization processes, enabling the synthesis of these materials on an industrial scale.


Antimony has a long history in medicine, although its use has declined over time due to its toxicity. Antimony compounds were once used to treat parasitic infections such as leishmaniasis and schistosomiasis. However, due to their adverse effects, safer alternatives have largely replaced them in modern medical practice.

Glass and Ceramics:

Antimony oxide is used as a fining agent in the production of glass and ceramics. This helps to remove bubbles and improve the clarity and shine of the final product. Antimony compounds are also used as pigments in ceramic glazes, providing colors ranging from yellow to orange.

Despite its versatility, it is important to acknowledge the health and environmental concerns associated with antimony. Exposure to high levels of antimony can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, and other health problems. Therefore, in industries where antimony is used, proper management and disposal practices are important.

The versatile nature of antimony makes it indispensable in various fields ranging from ensuring fire safety to advanced electronic devices. As technology continues to evolve, so will the application of this remarkable element, leading to innovation and progress in various fields. However, it is essential to balance its benefits with responsible management to minimize any potential risks to health and the environment.