Thursday, November 14, 2013

Antimony Facts.

Nebuchadnezzar, of hanging gardens of Babylon fame, painted his palace yellow by using an Antimony- lead mix. Soon he went mad, sleeping outdoors in fields and eating grass like an Ox. Around that time Egyptian women, used antimony as mascara to decorate their faces. During medieval times, alchemist – not to mention Isaac Newton- grew obsessed with the sexual properties of Antimony. Some insisted that Antimony was the essence of femininity- so much so that the alchemical symbol of antimony became the general symbol for “Female.”
Antimony was also used as a laxative. Unlike modern laxatives antimony pills didn’t dissolve in the intestines, and the pills were considered so valuable that people rummaged through faecal matter to retrieve the pills. In some families the antimony pills were also passed down as family laxative heirloom.
In the 1930’s in China, a poor province decided to make money from antimony, since it was the most abundantly available resource there. But antimony coins are soft, easily rubbed away and toxic, all properties of bad money. The government soon withdrew the coins. Though worth just fractions of a cent then, these coins fetch thousands of dollars from collectors today.
Mozart is supposed to have died by taking too much antimony to combat a severe fever.
Today Antimony is used to make custom built acids. Antimony pentafluoride, (SbF5), with hydrofluoric acid (HF), produces an acid with a pH of -31. This acid is 100,000 billion billion billion times stronger than stomach acid (pH 1) and will eat through glass, and dissolve the hand that holds the glass too. (It is stored in special Teflon lined containers)

Ah! This reminds me, although unrelated to the topic. Prior to 1890, scientists judged acids and bases by tasting or dunking their fingers in them.

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