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The Element Tin

[Click for Isotope Data]





Atomic Number: 50

Atomic Weight: 118.710

Melting Point: 505.08 K (231.93°C or 449.47°F)

Boiling Point: 2875 K (2602°C or 4715°F)

Density: 7.287 grams per cubic centimeter

Phase at Room Temperature: Solid

Element Classification: Metal

Period Number: 5    Group Number: 14    Group Name: none

What's in a name? From the Anglo-Saxon word tin. Tin's atomic symbol comes from the Latin word for tin, stannum.

Say what? Tin is pronounced as TIN.

History and Uses:

Archaeological evidence suggests that people have been using tin for at least 5500 years. Tin is primarily obtained from the mineral cassiterite (SnO2) and is extracted by roasting cassiterite in a furnace with carbon. Tin makes up only about 0.001% of the earth's crust and is chiefly mined in Malaysia.

Two allotropes of tin occur near room temperature. The first form of tin is called gray tin and is stable at temperatures below 13.2°C (55.76°F). There are few, if any, uses for gray tin. At temperatures above 13.2°C, gray tin slowly turns into tin's second form, white tin. White tin is the normal form of the metal and has many uses. Unfortunately, white tin will turn into gray tin if its temperature falls below 13.2°C. This change can be prevented if small amounts of antimony or bismuth are added to white tin.

Tin resists corrosion and is used as a protective coating on other metals. Tin cans are probably the most familiar example of this application. A tin can is actually made from steel. A thin layer of tin is applied to the inside and outside of the can to keep the steel from rusting. Once widely used, tin cans have largely been replaced with plastic and aluminum containers.

Tin is used in the Pilkington process to produce window glass. In the Pilkington process, molten glass is poured onto a pool of molten tin. The glass floats on the surface of the tin and cools, forming solid glass with flat, parallel surfaces. Most of the window glass produced today is made this way.

Tin is used to form many useful alloys. Bronze is an alloy of tin and copper. Tin and lead are alloyed to make pewter and solder. An alloy of tin and niobium is used to make superconductive wire. Type metal, fusible metal, bell metal and Babbitt metal are other examples of tin alloys.

Tin salts can be sprayed onto glass to make electrically conductive coatings. These can then be used to make panel lighting and frost-free windshields. Stannous fluoride (SnF2) is used in some types of toothpaste.

Estimated Crustal Abundance: 2.3 milligrams per kilogram

Estimated Oceanic Abundance: 4×10-6 milligrams per liter

Number of Stable Isotopes: 8   (View all isotope data)

Ionization Energy: 7.344 eV

Oxidation States: +4, +2

Electron Shell Configuration:


2s2   2p6

3s2   3p6   3d10

4s2   4p6   4d10

5s2   5p2