Simple Science

Uses Of Barium

BarytePhoto by James E. Petts

Barium is an element that was first isolated in 1808 by Sir Humphry Davy, who was an English scientist. It can be found in stones, concrete, paints and photography paper. There is no denying that this element is popular. The atomic number of barium is 56 and the symbol is Ba. Barium belongs to a family on the periodic table named group IIA. The relatives in this awesome family are called the alkaline earth metals. One of the amazing powers of alkaline earth metals is that they remain solid if you try to melt them at high heat. In this article, we will see all the uses of this amazing element.

Electronics

One of the common uses for barium is to remove the remaining bits of gasses in electronic vacuum tubes. For obvious reasons materials used for this purposes are referred to as getters. It is also used in the manufacturing process after a vacuum tube has been pumped and sealed, since it oxidizes so quickly. Once the barium is fired into the tube in its purest form, it will absorb any gasses left over from the pumping process.

Oil production

Barium Sulfate is usually used when drilling for new oil wells. This is definitely the most common use for barium. In order to create drilling mud, it’s combined with some other minerals and water. This mud gets pumped into the drilling holes, and it helps to prevent the oil from exploding out into the environment because of its weight.

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Pyrotechnics

This element is also used in the production of fireworks. Many of us watched with delight as fireworks explode into a wide array of colors. You are looking at an explosion of super-heated barium chloride every time you see a shade of green. Sometimes white fireworks are also created using barium oxide.

Pest control

Due to its toxicity, the usefulness of barium is rather limited in any form other than barium sulfate. But, this trait does provide one particular use – mouse poison. Barium carbonate reacts to the stomach’s acid when ingested, forming barium chloride. When absorbed into the bloodstream, this compound poisons the mouse that was unfortunate enough to come across this deadly meal.

Medicine

Barium sulfate can be used in a procedure called a barium swallow, thanks to its lead-like ability to block X-rays. In this procedure you have to drink a cup and a half of a chalky mixture called barium meal. While the barium flows through and coats your digestive tract, X-rays are taken, and the barium coating will be illuminated. This allows the diagnoses of some abnormalities in the colon, intestines, esophagus, or stomach, and is called radiocontrast.

Barium carbonate dishes

There is yet another purpose for barium carbonate. Sometimes it’s used in place of other, lighter elements during the manufacture of pressed glassware, because of the high density of barium. This results in more brilliancy in the finished product, and, of course, comes out with a better glass than would otherwise be found. In addition, this compound is used as a glaze in the manufacturing process of some ceramic pottery. However, there are many people who are against this use, as it has been reported to cause barium toxicity from certain pieces, such as mugs for coffee.

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