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Element Barium, Ba, Alkaline Earth Metal

About Barium

Barium, Ba, has the combining weight 137.4, and occurs naturally as sulphate and carbonate.

Metallic barium is of a white colour, melts at a red heat, and reacts more energetically with water than strontium or calcium. We have here, therefore, a repetition of the same state of affairs as in the group of alkali metals, viz. the action with oxygen and oxygen compounds is more energetic the higher the combining weight of the metal.

Metallic barium is prepared by the same methods as were given for strontium. It has as yet not found any application whatever.

Barium forms only the divalent ion Ba••, which is colourless and has a poisonous action on the organism. It can be readily detected by means of the exceedingly sparingly soluble precipitate which it yields with sulphanion, SO4''.

Barium History

Unusual properties of heavy spar BaSO4, one of the natural barium compounds attracted alchemists' attention from the starting of 17th century. About 1602, the shoemaker-alchemist, Vincenzo Cascariolo in the city of Bologna (Italy) had found a unusually heavy rock in Bologna mountains. It was the specimen of heavy spar. Cascariolo heated a mixture of powdered coal and heavy spar, spread it over an iron bar, and let it cool. When he took the bar in a dark room, he was astonished to see it glow y reddish-colour light. All across Italy, the new compound made a sensation. It became an object of thorough research.

During such research in 1774 Carl Wilhelm Scheele & Johan Gottlieb Gahn found in heavy spar (in German "Schwerspat", BaSO4) embedded small crystals and recognized them as a new earth (oxide, BaO). This "heavy earth" was named by Louis Bernard Guyton de Morveau (1737-1816) barote, later baryte, from the Greek βαρυς [barys] = heavy. The name was changed by Lavoisier to baryta.

Barium Occurrence

Alkaline Earth Metal Barium crustal abundance is of about 0.065%. The most common naturally occurring minerals are the very insoluble barium sulfate, BaSO4 (barite, heavy spar), and barium carbonate, BaCO3 (witherite), as well as silicates & alumosilicates.

The deposits there are estimated to contain 2x109 tons, mostly in China & in Kazakhstan as well as in USA, India, Turkey, Morocco & Mexico. In Russia deposits are estimated to contain 2x106 tons in Khakasia, Chelyainsk and Kemerovo regions. World annual production barite production is 7x106 tons, Russia extracts 5x103 tons and imports annually 25x103 tons.

Barium is permanently present in plants organs its concentration in plants ashes varies from 0.06-0.2 to 3% in barite deposits areas. Barium accumulation coefficient (the ratio of quantity in ashes/quantity in the soil) for herbage plants equals 0.2-6, for woody plants 1-30. Barium concentrates more in roots and branches, less in leaves. It increases with the plant age. Barium is toxic for animals if barium concentration in herbs ashes is 2-30%. Small quantities of barium are deposited in bones and other animal organs.


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