Thallium, with the atomic number 81, is a soft, silvery-white metal that is located in group 13 of the periodic table. It was first discovered in 1861 by a British chemist Sir William Crookes and is named after the Greek word “thallos,” which means “a green shoot or twig.” Thallium is one of the rarest elements on Earth, making up only about 0.00005% of the Earth’s crust.
Despite its rarity, thallium has several unique properties that make it useful in various industries. For instance, thallium is a potent electrical conductor, and its conductivity increases significantly when exposed to infrared light. This property makes thallium ideal for use in the manufacturing of photocells and thermoelectric devices, which convert heat into electricity. Thallium is also used in the production of specialized glasses and lenses that can withstand extreme temperatures and chemical corrosion.
The production of thallium is primarily carried out by the smelting of lead and zinc ores. Thallium is present in these ores in very small amounts, and thus, its extraction is a laborious and costly process. Furthermore, due to the toxic nature of thallium, its production and use require strict safety measures.
One interesting fact about thallium is that it was used as a poison in the past due to its high toxicity. It was famously used in several murder cases in the early 20th century, earning it the nickname “the poisoner’s poison.” However, thallium is now strictly regulated and monitored, and its use as a poison is prohibited in most countries.
In conclusion, thallium may be a rare and toxic element, but its unique properties and applications make it a valuable material in various industries. Its production process requires specialized knowledge and safety measures, and it is strictly monitored to prevent any harmful use.