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Antimony trioxide is the chemical compound with the formula Sb2O3. It is the most important commercial compound of antimony.
As the primary oxide of antimony, Sb2
is prepared by burning elemental antimony in air:
- 4Sb + 3O2 → 2Sb2O3
minerals can be roasted to give the same products.
The structure of Sb2
depends on the temperature of the sample. Only at very high temperatures does the molecule Sb2
exist. At moderate temperatures, the gas consists of Sb4
. These molecules are bicyclic cages, similar to the related oxide of phosphorus, phosphorus trioxide
. The cage structure is retained in a solid that crystallizes in a cubic habit. The Sb-O distance is 1.977 Å and the O-Sb-O angle of 95.6°. This materials exists in nature as the mineral
senarmontite. Below 606 °C, the more stable form of is orthorhombic
, consisting of pairs -Sb-O-Sb-O- chains that are linked by oxide bridges between the Sb centers. This form exists in nature as the mineral valentinite
Antimony trioxide is an amphoteric oxide, dissolving in alkaline solution to give antimonites and in acid solution to given a range of polyantimonous acids. It can be readily oxidized to antimony pentoxide or other antimony(V) compounds, but is also easily reduced to antimony, sometimes with production of stibine.
The annual consumption of antimony trioxide in the United States
is approximately 10,000 tonnes
Antimony trioxide is only weakly absorbed by the digestive system, and the main route of exposure is by inhalation of the dust. The elimination of antimony from the body is slow, leading to a risk of chronic toxicity in the form of pneumoconiosis
with repeated inhalation exposures. Acute poisoning is very rare, and the signs are fairly non-characteristic (vomiting
, abdominal pain, irritation of the mucous membranes
, cardiac irregularities). These symptoms are more often associated with ingestion of other more water soluble compounds.
Chronic poisoning by antimony trioxide is also rare. The main signs are irritation of the respiratory tract and of the skin and a characteristic pneumoconiosis, which is visible on chest X-rays.
Antimony trioxide is known to pass into breast milk and to transverse the placenta only in very small amounts. One study of exposed female workers suggested a higher incidence than usual of menstrual problems and of late-term miscarriages; also their children may have developed slower than usual during the first twelve months of life, although this study is inconclusive. A more recent developmental study in rodents did not confirm an effect on mammalian development.
- Institut national de recherche et de sécurité (INRS), Fiche toxicologique nº 198 : Trioxyde de diantimoine, 1992.
- Inhalation Developmental Toxicity Studies In Rats With Antimony Trioxide (Sb2O3). Newton PE; Schroeder RE; Zwick L; Serex T; Toxicologist 2004 Mar;78(1-S):38
- The Oxide Handbook, G.V. Samsonov, 1981, 2nd ed. IFI/Plenum, ISBN 0-306-65177-7