in

Tin (Sn)

QUICK REFERENCE

  • Symbol: Sn
  • Atomic Number: 50
  • Atomic Weight: 118.710
  • Element Classification: Post-transition Metal
  • Discovered By: Known to ancient civilizations
  • Discovery Date: Known since ancient times
  • Name Origin: Anglo-Saxon; Latin: ‘stannum’ for alloy of silver and lead
  • Density(g/cc): 7.287
  • Melting Point: 231.93°C
  • Boiling Point: 2602°C
  • Appearance: Silvery-white, lustrous metal
  • Atomic Radius(pm): 145

Discovery

Tin is one of the earliest metals discovered by humans, known and used in prehistoric times. The exact date of discovery is unknown, but tin’s use dates back to the Bronze Age, around 3000 BC. It was valued for its ability to form bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, which marked a significant technological advancement at the time. The Latin name ‘stannum’, from which the symbol Sn is derived, originally referred to an alloy of silver and lead, but later came to mean tin.

Relation to Other Elements

Tin is classified as a post-transition metal in group 14 of the periodic table, sharing the group with carbon, silicon, germanium, lead, and flerovium. Like other post-transition metals, tin exhibits a mix of metallic and nonmetallic properties. It is known for its resistance to corrosion and extensive use in alloys. Tin mainly exists in two oxidation states: +2 (stannous) and +4 (stannic), with the +4 state being more stable.

Natural Occurrence

Tin is relatively rare in the Earth’s crust, primarily found in the mineral cassiterite (SnO₂), from which most tin is obtained. While tin deposits are scattered around the world, significant sources include China, Indonesia, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. The production of tin involves mining cassiterite and then smelting it to extract the tin metal.

Uses

Tin has a variety of applications, reflecting its historical and modern importance:

  • Alloys: Tin’s most well-known use is in bronze, an alloy of copper and tin. It is also a component of solder (for joining electrical components), pewter, and various other alloys.
  • Coatings: Tin plating is used to coat other metals to prevent corrosion. The most common application is in tin cans, which are made of steel or aluminum coated with a thin layer of tin.
  • Chemicals: Organotin compounds are used as stabilizers in plastics, PVC, catalysts, and biocides.
  • Glass Production: Tin is used in the float glass process, where molten glass is poured onto a surface of molten tin to produce flat panels of glass for windows, mirrors, and screens.
  • Solders and Bearings: Tin-based solders are important for making electrical connections in devices, and tin-based bearing materials are used in automotive and industrial applications for their low friction properties.

The discovery and utilization of tin have profoundly impacted human civilization, from the Bronze Age to modern electronics. Its properties, including resistance to corrosion and usefulness in alloys, continue to make tin a valuable material in a wide range of applications.

Indium (In)

Antimony (Sb)