Chemistry

How Thallium is used Today



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Some industries in this century employ compounds of thallium, a toxic metallic element, for a variety of commercial purposes. However, certain properties of this substance probably restrict its overall usefulness in the marketplace. Thallium often figures amongst the harmful materials which must be removed from environmentally contaminated sites.

An overview of thallium

British scientist Sir William Crookes published his discovery of thallium in his laboratory in 1861. The element holds an atomic number of 81, and it is classified within Group 13 in the Periodic Table.

Somewhat similar to lead in appearance, thallium occurs naturally in trace amounts in the Earth’s crust. It develops a metallic blue-gray sheen upon exposure to air. For many years, people produced thallium mainly as an industrial byproduct.

Slightly less malleable than lead, thallium in certain amounts proves toxic; some health authorities have expressed concern about its potential carcinogenic properties, also. These features have probably limited the use of thallium in many industries.

Some uses of thallium compounds

Today, thallium compounds do play a role in certain industries, including: electronic parts manufacturing, mining, medical diagnostic testing, optics and the pesticide manufacturing. These uses have caused some companies to sell thallium commercially in some parts of the world.

*Thallium compounds in electronic parts manufacturing

Some firms reportedly use thallium during the course of producing electronic devices, switches and semi-conductors. The element requires careful handling due to its toxic properties, and it does not figure prominently in consumer devices. It is sometimes employed in photosensitive cells which may be sensitive to infrared light.

*Mining

Some sources report that thallium in this century does play an important role in certain types of commercial mining procedures. For example, in some countries, mining firms use thallium to assist with separating gemstones from ores. It is sometimes a byproduct following the smelting of certain metals also.

*Medical diagnostic testing

One of the most important and relatively newer uses of thallium involves diagnostic testing procedures requiring trace materials for labeling purposes—specifically, this element has gained wide acceptance in the field of myocardial perfusion imagery (MPI) in some countries.

Cardiologists seeking to examine blood flow in arteries of the heart have found that radioactive thallium compounds in trace quantities may greatly assist certain diagnostic procedures. This application, of course, did not become widespread until comparatively recently.

*Optics

For several years, thallium compounds have figured in specialized optical manufacturing settings also. Thallium sometimes forms an important component of optical equipment. It functions as an important component of some specialized types of glass.  

*Pesticide manufacturing

Thallium compounds in the past played a widespread role in compounds used by some chemical companies to manufacture pesticides. These substances may still figure as ingredients in insecticides, for example in some nations. Around the globe, this use forms one of the most controversial markets for thallium products today;this situation causes concern on the part of environmentalists because of the damaging impact of thallium on the environment and human health.

Thallium and thallium compounds as environmental toxins

Despite thallium’s utility in some commercial settings, this element also often appears as a waste byproduct at contaminated environmental sites. Due to its potential to cause cancers, it must be removed as a hazardous waste under some circumstances.

Conclusion

Many companies around the world use thallium for a variety of industrial purposes. It remains an element which sometimes assist manufacturing in many diverse settings, in addition to its more recent uses in medicine.

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