What Are Some Historical Facts About Cadmium?


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Cadmium was discovered in Germany in 1817 by Friedrich Stromeyer. Cadmium's name is derived from the Latin word for zinc carbonate, cadmia, because Stromeyer discovered the element as an impurity in the compound. Historically, cadmium was mainly used in alloys, pigments and corrosive-resistant coatings for iron and steel. These applications of cadmium severely declined starting in the 1980s when regulations defined it as toxic and a carcinogen to humans and other organisms.

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During experiments with zinc carbonate, Friedrich Stromeyer noticed that some samples of the compound became yellow when heated, while others did not. Friedrich Strohmeyer realized that cadmium was responsible for the yellowing of his zinc carbonate samples after he was able to isolate the element through roasting. After its discovery, Germany remained the main producer of cadmium, and it remained too rare for widespread applications until industrial-scale production of it began in the 1930s.

In the 1956, 59 percent of the cadmium produced in the United States was used for corrosive-resistant coatings for iron and steel, and 24 percent was used for pigment applications. Cadmium was also widely used as a stabilizing element in chemical compounds in the 1970s and 1980s. As of 2015, cadmium is mainly used in nickel-cadmium battery cells, electroplating in electronics and low-temperature silver solders.

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