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Antimony Metal – What you need to know

Posted February 15th 2018

Antimony metal - what you need to know

Antimony metal

Antimony metal – what is it?

Antimony is a semimetallic chemical element which can exist in two forms: the metallic form is bright, silvery, hard and brittle; the non metallic form is a grey powder.

Antimony is a poor conductor of heat and electricity, it is stable in dry air and is not attacked by dilute acids or alkalis. Antimony and some of its alloys expand on cooling.

Antimony has been known since ancient times. It is sometimes found free in nature, but is usually obtained from the ores stibnite (Sb2S3) and valentinite (Sb2O3).

Nicolas Lémery, a French chemist, was the first person to scientifically study antimony and its compounds. He published his findings in 1707.

Antimony makes up about 0.00002% of the earth’s crust.

History

Antimony and its compounds were known to the ancients and there is a 5,000-year old antimony vase in the Louvre in Paris. Antimony sulfide (Sb2S3) is mentioned in an Egyptian papyrus of the 16th century BC.

The black form of this pigment, which occurs naturally as the mineral stibnite, was used as mascara and known as khol. The most famous user was the temptress Jezebel whose exploits are recorded in the Bible.

Another pigment known to the Chaldean civilization, which flourished in what is now southern Iraq in the 6th and 7th centuries BC, was yellow lead antimonite. This was found in the glaze of ornamental bricks at Babylon and date from the time of Nebuchadnezzar (604–561 BC).

Antimony became widely used in Medieval times, mainly to harden lead for type, although some was taken medicinally as a laxative pill which could be reclaimed and re-used!

Applications

Antimony is used in the electronics industry to make some semiconductor devices, such as infrared detectors and diodes.

It is alloyed with lead or other metals to improve their hardness and strength. A lead-antimony alloy is used in batteries. Other uses of antimony alloys include type metal (in printing presses), bullets and cable sheathing.

Antimony compounds are used to make flame-retardant materials, paints, enamels, glass and pottery.

What are Christmas baubles made of?

Posted December 20th 2017

Although modern day baubles are typically made of blown glass, they have a long history and in the past have been made of glass, wood, metal and various other materials.

Hans Greiner, who made glass beads and tin figures to hang on trees in addition to the traditional apples and candy canes, first manufactured Glass baubles in Lauscha, Germany. Glass tubes were heated over fire, and then inserted into a clay mold where they could be blown so that the glass expanded to fill the shape of the mold. Although the molds used today vary wildly in shape and size, the original ones tended to be fruits or nuts. In the 1850s, a silvering technique developed by Justus von Liebig was also incorporated which involved swirling a silver nitrate solution into the cooled glass after which the bauble could be painted.

As glass baubles became popular, other local glassblowers saw an opportunity and began to produce them in a wider range of designs and finishes. In 1832, a young queen Victoria was delighted to have a Christmas tree adorned with baubles, lights and other ornaments and when a picture of her tree was featured in a London newspaper, from her husbands native Germany, Lauscha began to export products through Europe, leading to the rise in the decorated Christmas tree that we know today.

Although round, glass baubles are the most well known, and typically seen Christmas tree decoration, they are available in all shapes and sizes, as well as different finishes now. Plastic can often be used to make cheaper and more affordable baubles, and metal may be used to make more intricate figures and decorations such as reindeers, angels and stars. Older Christmas decorations tend to be made of more expensive materials, such as silver bells or tinsel made of shredded silver – although this is rarely seen anymore. The decision to use cheaper materials, as we see today, is to make them more accessible and affordable, as well as cheaper and easier to mass produce.

metal christmas baubles

Surgical Metals

Posted December 12th 2017

The most commonly used metals in surgery are surgical stainless steel and titanium. Surgical stainless steel is a term used to label particular grades of stainless steel that are commonly used in biomedical appliances. The most common forms are austenitic 316 stainless steel and martensitic 440 and 420 stainless steels and whilst there is no certain definition of what constitutes surgical stainless steel, manufacturers generally recognise this to be any grade of corrosion resistant steel.

316 stainless steel is an alloy of chromium, nickel and molybdenum that is highly resistance to corrosion and relatively strong. 316 stainless steel can be cheaper to produce than the commonly used titanium alloy, Ti6AI4V, and as such is commonly used in the production of biomedical implants. Its drawback, however, is the nickel content which can induce a reaction with the immune system and cause complications. For any implants which may be subject to pressure once in place, such as body piercings, bone fixation screws and prostheses, austenitic steel is more commonly used.

Titanium has been commonly used for biomedical purposes since the 1950s, after already having been used in dentistry prior to this. It is commonly used to make prosthetics and can be used as the material for biomedical implants all over the body from false eye implants and spinal fusion cages, to pacemakers and hip replacements. In addition to thus, several surgical instruments are coated with titanium nitrade, an extremely hard ceramic material that hardens and protects surfaces. Titanium is commonly considered to be the most biocompatible metal due to its high level of corrosion resistance and high fatigue limit. A protective oxide film forms naturally in the presence of oxygen, which protects it from bodily fluids and prevents reactions between the metal and hosting environment.

Although both materials are useful, there are several differences between them that make them suitable for different things. Titanium is stronger and more lightweight than stainless steel, and less rigid which can limit the amount of stress placed on bones. It also lasts longer and generally has superior strength to stainless steel, although stainless steel is still commonly used in implants which will be placed under heavy strain. Another plus point for titanium is the fact that it does not contain nickel, making it by far the better option for those with proven or suspected nickel allergies. It is estimated that 10-20 percent of the population is allergic to nickel, which is a massive figure, and it is one of the main causes of contact dermatitis.

surgical metals

What does being a scrap metal dealer entail?

Posted December 5th 2017

Scrap metal is made up of recycled materials that have been left over from manufacturing and consumptions of products that use metals. This could be anything from parts of old vehicles, to surplus materials that have been discarded during the manufacturing process. It does not, however, include gold and silver, or any other alloy that is comprised of more than 2% of either gold or silver.

A scrap metal dealer is someone who deals with the sale of scrap metals and must have a licence in order to do so. Anyone who is a motor salvage dealer, or conducts business, which deals in any part of the buying and selling of scrap metals, may be deemed a scrap metal dealer. There are two types of licence that can be obtained – a site licence, which licenses the holder to buy and sell scrap metal from one or more sites in the local authority area, as well as transporting the material between multiple registered sites, and a collectors licence, which authorises someone to collect scrap metal in the local authority area. A separate licence must be obtained from each council the collector will be operating in and only one of each type of licence may be held in an individual local authority area.

The price of scrap metal may vary widely depending on location and these are often negotiated directly between sellers and buyers, although sometimes you may see scrap metal prices posted online or in publications. In the US, for example, scrap prices can be found in several publication such as American Metal Market.

One of the key benefits in recycling scrap metals is the impact on the environment. The US Environmental Protection Agency conducted research, which found that using recycled scrap metal instead of iron ore can save up to 75% of energy used in production, as well as giving a 97% reduction in mining wastes and 86% reduction in air pollution. These figures are phenomenal and are just a small insight into the benefits of using scrap metals, which can be just as effective as using virgin materials.

William Rowland is proud to include in its portfolio, the purchasing and sales of specialty revert and scrap metal. Our product range includes nickel based alloys, nickel and cobalt irons, nickel, chrome and molybdenum alloys, nickel copper alloys, cobalt based alloys, nickel cobalt alloys, and many more.

turnings scrap metal

Tin

Posted November 6th 2017

Tin is a chemical element, belonging to group 14 of the periodic table. Its symbol is Sn, which comes from the Latin stannum, and it is what we call a post-transition metal. It is commonly used in alloys, including bronze and pewter, as well as in the plating of steel to add a corrosion resistant layer.

Malleable and very ductile, tin is a silvery white coloured metal that has a relatively low melting point of 232 degrees Celsius (the lowest within that group in the periodic table). As it is so soft, it is unusual for tin to be used in its pure form and instead it is most commonly seen in alloys. Bronze is one of the most popular alloys we see tin in, produced since as early as 3000 BC. It is comprised of around 12% tin and the remainder of copper with a small amount of other metals such as aluminium and nickel. Tin is also used heavily in pewter, which can contain as much as 90% tin alongside copper, lead and antimony.

Due to a high level of corrosion resistance, tin is often used as a coating for lead, zinc and steel. Combined with a low level of toxicity this makes tin a perfect material for us in food packaging, such as tin plated steel cans.

Tin is also popularly used with lead as solder, which is used in electric circuits as well as piping systems. Following the European Union Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, which was introduced on 1 July 2016, the content of lead has decreased which leads to problems when trying to replace it, such as a higher melting point. Tin pest can sometimes occur in lead-free solders, which causes the deterioration of the tin at low temperatures.

Today the London Metal Exchange (LME) is the primary trading place for tin, although other tin markets include the Kuala Lumpur Tin Market (KLTM) and the Indonesia Tin Market (INATIN). Tin has historically had a high price especially during the years of agreements between producer and consumer countries. The International Tin Council have tried to keep this stable by buying stockpiles during periods of low price and selling these again during periods of high price in an effort to keep the price steady. However, the stockpile was never large enough and during the years of 1956 to 1985 tin prices mainly rose. The recession of 1981-82 had a dramatic impact on the tin industry with consumption reducing and the ITC stumbling into debt. This culminated in it reaching its credit limit in 1985 and tin being delisted from trading on the LME for three years. Following this, the ITC was dissolved and the price of tin has become more stable.

Today, William Rowland sells tin in the form of pellets and sticks.

tin

Where is all the gold?

Posted October 25th 2017

The journal Nature recently published an article that argued the gold and silver found on Earth should be much more abundant than they are. Whilst both metals can be found scattered throughout space, they are relatively rare to find on Earth compared to other elements, and the lack of gold in particular has been a growing concern amongst the mining industry. Whilst the metal has always been scarce, it is being found less and less often which will certainly mean an increase in price as time goes on.

Bernard Wood, a geologist from Oxford University, argues that ‘The silicate Earth is strongly depleted in moderately volatile elements (such as lead, zinc, indium and alkali elements) relative to CI chondrites, the meteorites that compositionally most closely resemble the sun’. His paper studies the lack of gold and silver found on the planet, concluding that the way it was formed is the cause of this.

‘Earth’s Volatile Contents Established By Melting And Vapourisation’, as the paper is titled, looks at the formation of the earth and argues that the gold that would have been present at one time turns to gas once it reaches a particular level of temperature. Using a furnace, Wood studies the effects of heat on a model version of an early Earth, using temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees Celsius, as well as adding elements such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, basaltic rock and zinc oxide to the process, to mimic the formation of the planet.

‘Our experiment shows that melting processes explain the pattern [of volatile depletion] perfectly’, concluded the study. ‘We find that the pattern of volatile element depletion in the silicate Earth is consistent with partial melting and vapourisation rather than with simple accretion of a volatile-rich chondrite-like body’.

gold bricks

The most powerful magnet in the world

Posted October 15th 2017

Although magnetic materials and magnetic fields are naturally occurring, the most powerful magnet in the world is man-made. Reaching a huge 100 tesla, the magnet is over 2 million times more powerful than the Earth’s own magnetic field, and sits in the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL).

In March 2012, researchers at the facility were able to claim that they had created the strongest magnetic field ever, that was non-destructive. The power of the magnet is over 100 times more powerful than a typical junkyard magnet often seen moving cars or heavy pieces of equipment, and 30 times stronger than the magnetic field that comes from an MRI scan.

The Los Alamos facility is one of three sites that form the NHMFL and the current home of the colossal magnet. Weighing in at 18,000 pounds, and with a huge 1,200 megajoule motor generator, it provides researches with a unique tool to use in their study of materials and the effect of magnetic fields on them. Although other attempts have been made to build similar magnets, none have successfully been able to emit a magnetic field without destroying themselves. As such, the magnet at the Los Alamos site is called a multi shot in reference to its ability to be used over and again – as often as once an hour.

The magnet is composed of four electrical circuits and is surrounded by liquid nitrogen, which keeps it at a cool -198.15 degrees Celsius. This is inside a container known as a dewar and it is used to keep the magnet cool and prevent it from overheating. The magnet is so strong that it also emits a loud shrieking sound when in use, caused by the electrical current modulation. It can only be kept on for a few seconds.

magnetic waves

Asteroid Mining

Posted October 6th 2017

Asteroid mining is the removal of raw materials from an asteroid. It is not something that has yet been accomplished, but there have been many proposals and theories on how this could become possible and there are several companies in existence dedicated to this purpose, including Deep Space Industries and Kepler Energy and Space Engineering.

There are thousands of asteroids that pass close to the Earth, and could potentially be used for the purpose of mining. The materials that can be contained in an asteroid include gold, iridium, cobalt, tungsten, aluminum and nickel, as well as numerous others that we use on a daily basis. With modern industrial processes continually depleting out natural reserves of materials such as zinc, tin, lead, silver, gold and copper, the possibility of them being found elsewhere is certainly appealing and one which we should not dismiss. Whilst this may sound quite far-fetched, Chris Lewicki, the president of Planetary Resources and one of their chief engineers, puts it into perspective. ‘It is natural to doubt when you don’t know much about it. Most people read the headline and make assumptions. We are only repeating what has been done throughout history, just in a new environment.’

The new environment, however, that we are looking at is one which is hostile and dangerous, and that we have barely begun to discover. Despite this, those behind the concept of asteroid mining believe that it has the potential to shape our economy for the next century and will be revolutionary in developing our knowledge of space. They emphasise the importance of not only bringing materials back to Earth, but using them in space for further construction and discovery. Space Foundation, a global non-profit organisation believes the results could be ‘revolutionary in benefits to space exploration, and all of us on Earth’.

asteriod mining

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Recycled metals – What do we use them for?

Posted September 26th 2017

In the society of today, recycling is more prevalent than ever. We are encouraged to recycle whenever we can, but what happens to the things we do recycle? Where do they end up?

Metal is one of the major materials that can be recycled. Aluminum, iron, steel, copper and brass can all be recycled and reused, more than once, to make new products. Not only is it easy to use the scrap metal to make new products but it also reduces the need for new mining. It makes economical sense to recycle and reuse materials where possible and by doing this we can cut CO2 emissions, air and water pollution. When you bear in mind that the average household uses over 600 food tins and 380 drinks cans per year, it isn’t difficult to see how this energy can be saved.

How scrap metal is used differs depending on the metal. Some of the most commonly recycled metals are aluminum and steel, which can be recycled over and over again without losing their quality. The benefit of this is that the recycled metals can be used to make the same items. They are commonly used to make new food packaging – often the packaging will carry a mark to let you know that it has been recycled, and it can take as little as 8 weeks for a tin to be bought at the supermarket, used, recycled and make its way back to the supermarket. Most food tins contain at least a percentage of scrap metal if they are not made from 100% recycled metal. Recycled aluminum is also commonly used in the construction industry, alongside scrap iron, particularly in the building of bridges and roads. Other uses include the manufacture of aircraft, cars and even home furnishings.

recycled metals

The History of Metal in Sheffield

Posted September 15th 2017

The city of Sheffield is well known for steel manufacturing and metallurgy. From the 18th century onwards it was quickly established as one of the main industrial cities in the UK, although it was recognised for the manufacture of knives as early as the 14th century with a notable mention from Chaucuer in The Reeve’s Tale.


Ay by his belt he baar a long panade,

And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade.

A joly poppere baar he in his pouche;

Ther was no man, for peril, dorste hym touche.

A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose.

Round was his face, and camus was his nose;


The location of the city, situated amongst a multitude of rivers and streams, made it ideal for water powered industries to flourish and in the 1600s, Sheffield became the hub of cutlery production in England, outside London. In the 1740s, Benjamin Huntsman, who lived just outside Sheffield in the town of Handsworth, invented a version of crucible steel process that would produce better quality steel than had previously been possible. His method involved a coke-fired furnace that could be heated to a staggering 1,600 degrees °C. Clay crucibles would first be heated, before adding an alloy of carbon and iron known as blister steel. After 3 hours in the furnace the pots were removed, and impurities skimmed off, before the molten steel was cast and cooled. Also notable at this time was the invention of Sheffield plate by Thomas Boulsover, a combination of layers of copper and silver that is very strong and was used to produce a multitude of household goods. Because there was a large amount of copper, covered with a thin coating of silver, items were able to be produced at a far lower cost than if they were made only of silver.

In 1912, Harry Brearly discovered stainless steel in his research laboratory based in Sheffield. The metal was marketed as Staybrite in England by Firth Vickers and was used in the new entrance to the Savoy Hotel in London in 1929. Although when he applied for a US patent Brearly found that someone in the US had already registered one, he was able to join forces with Elwood Haynes to create the American Stainless Steel Corporation.

As steel began to be mass-produced the population of the city grew exponentially from the 18th to the 20th century, going from 60,995 in 1801 to 577, 050 in 1951. Although the industry has since declined Sheffield is still recognised as a key contributor to the metal industry and continues to manufacture specialist steel today.

sheffield metal history

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