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Antimony is an element that combines a silver appearance with a hard, brittle metallic surface. It is used in many applications, including flame-retardant materials and as a dopant in semiconductor materials.
It is extracted from stibnite sulfide ores and is mainly mined in China. In 2011 there were 169,000 tons of antimony produced worldwide, with China accounting for nearly 90 percent of production.
Lead-antimony alloys have been traditionally used for battery grids, particularly starting and lighting batteries. However, they are not suitable for modern vehicle requirements and have been replaced with thinner, less conductive lead alloys and tin-calcium alloys.
Nevertheless, low antimony lead alloys can be used for long-spined tubular battery grids as they have a relatively fluid property and may be continuously cast into strips that are expanded or punched to form the grids. Rolled antimony lead alloys, on the other hand, have low mechanical properties because they break up the second-phase particles that are cast into the metal and therefore cannot be used for continuous grid casting.
When type metal is remelted it must be skimmed for the residue of tin and antimony that have formed on the surface, called dross. The dross is then separated and discarded. This is done at specialized companies that use highly efficient and environmentally sound processes.