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For spark plugs.
(Gr. barys, heavy) Baryta was distinguished from lime by Scheele in 1774; the element
was discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy in 1808.
It is found only in combination with other elements, chiefly with sulfate and carbonate
and is prepared by electrolysis of the chloride.
Barium is a metallic element, soft, and when pure is silvery white like lead; it
belongs to the alkaline earth group, resembling calcium chemically. The metal oxidizes
very easily and should be kept under petroleum or other suitable oxygen-free liquids to
exclude air. It is decomposed by water or alcohol.
The metal is used as a "getter" in vacuum tubes. The most important compounds
are the peroxide, chloride, sulfate, carbonate, nitrate, and chlorate. Lithopone, a
pigment containing barium sulfate and zinc sulfide, has good covering power, and does not
darken in the presence of sulfides. The sulfate, as permanent white is also used in paint,
in X-ray diagnostic work, and in glassmaking. Barite is extensively used as a weighing
agent in oil well drilling fluids, and is used in making rubber. The carbonate has been
used as a rat poison, while the nitrate and chlorate give colors in pyrotechny. The impure
sulfide phosphoresces after exposure to the light. All barium compounds that are water or
acid soluble are poisonous. Naturally occurring barium is a mixture of seven stable
isotopes. Twenty two other radioactive isotopes are known to exist.
Sources: CRC Handbook of Chemistry
and Physics and the American Chemical Society.
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