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Chemical Elements


BaCO3, BaSO4, Barium nitrate, rat poisons, barium carbonate

Barium (Greek barys, “heavy”), symbol Ba, soft, silvery, highly reactive metallic element. Barium is in group 2 (or IIa) of the periodic table and is one of the alkaline earth metals. The atomic number of barium is 56. Barium was first recognized as an element in 1808 by the English scientist Sir Humphry Davy. The element reacts vigorously with water; it is rapidly corroded by moist air. In fact, the element is so reactive that it occurs in nature only as a compound. Its most important compounds are the minerals barium sulfate and barium carbonate (witherite), BaCO3.

Barium is the 14th most common element, making up 1/2000th of Earth’s crust. The atomic weight of barium is 137.33. The element melts at 727°C (1341°F), boils at 1897°C (3447°F), and has a specific gravity of 3.5.

Barium metal has few practical applications, although it is sometimes used in coating electrical conductors in electronic apparatus and in automobile ignition systems. Barium sulfate (BaSO4) is used as a filler for rubber products, in paint, and in linoleum. Barium nitrate is used in fireworks, and barium carbonate in rat poisons. A form of barium sulfate, which is opaque to X rays, is used for the X-ray examination of the gastrointestinal tract.

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BaCO3, BaSO4, Barium nitrate, rat poisons, barium carbonate, alkaline earth metals, witherite, periodic table, IIa, rubber products, specific gravity, moist air, gastrointestinal tract, X rays, paint, crust, fireworks, filler, Earth, nature, fact, water, practical applications, group

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