Barium (Ba)

By: Jennifer Sherk

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Barium: A History

Barium was discovered in 1808 in London, England by Humphry Davy. Davy produced Barium by electrolysis of Barium hydroxide. Although Davy discovered Barium, it was actually used before 1808, but the scientists did not known they were using it. In the early 1600's in Italy, Vincenzo Casciarolo found some unusual pebbles that when heated to redness during the day, they would shine during the night. These pebbles were made of Barium which was unknown at the time. Fast forward to the 1760's, Carl Scheele discovered that this unknown substance in these pebbles (Barium) was the sulfate of an unknown element. Then in 1808 Davy finally discovered it and named it.

Barium in Numbers

Barium has an atomic mass of 137.327 and its atomic radius in picometers is 253. Barium is number 56 on the periodic table. 56 also happens to be Barium's atomic number. Barium has a mass number of 137. Out of that 137, there are 56 protons and electrons along with 81 neutrons.
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Barium Visual

This picture shows the nucleus of barium containing its protons and neutrons as well as the surrounding electrons.

Barium Properties

Barium is a soft, silvery metal (at room temperature) that tends to act rapidly with oxygen. Barium has a very high boiling point of 1870 degrees Celsius. Barium's melting point is 727 degrees Celsius. Since Barium is a metal, it can be used a conductor. Although because of it's hardness it is not often used as a conductor. Barium most likely is not very malleable even though it is a metal. It is a soft metal so that makes it not very malleable.

Scientist Explain Barium

In this video, scientists talk about some of the different uses of Barium. The woman is showing how Barium can be rubbed down and shows us a rod of Barium. The man explains some of the properties of Barium in more depth.
Barium - Periodic Table of Videos

Barium Uses

Barium is not used very extensively used. It is mostly used in drilling fluids for oil and gas wells. Barium is also used in paint and sometimes glass-making. As addressed in the video above, Barium has medical uses as well. Barium helps with taking X-Rays. Barium meal is was is used in these X-rays. Barium meal is a test that allows you to see into your body. The test is only performed after the bowel is cleaned out (patient is given a laxative the night before the test) Barium was also used in rat poison in the past. A fun fact about Barium is that Barium nitrate gives fireworks their green color. Ironically Barium is used to removes any trace of gases in vacuum tubes.

Barium Compound and Isotopes

All Barium compounds are toxic, but Barium sulfate is insoluble and can be swallowed. Barium sulfate is found in the 'Barium meal'. Barium carbonate and Barium nitrate are also common compounds. Barium carbonate is was used in rat posion and Barium nitrate is used for the green color in fireworks.

Barium does not have any specific isotopes that are used for specific things or help us in a certain way. Barium 130 and Barium 132 are radioactive and do have extremely long half lives.

Fun Facts

Barium's name comes from the Greek work 'barys', meaning heavy. Originally a scientist by the name of Dr. William Withering (who was looking over Carl Scheene's work) named the element Witherite. Humphry Davy later changed the name to Witherite.

Other Sources

- Element Card: Gray, Theodore W. (2008). The Photographic Card Deck of the Elements.

- Elements Book: Gray, Theodore W. (2009). The Elements: A visual exploration of every known atom in the universe. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.

- Royal Society of Chemistry Periodic Table: Royal Society of Chemistry. (2015). Periodic Table. Barium Article.