Strontium is the chemical element with symbol Sr and atomic
number 38. An alkaline earth metal, strontium is a soft
silver-white yellowish metallic element that is highly reactive
chemically. The metal forms a dark oxide layer when it is exposed to
Strontium has physical and chemical properties similar to those
of its two vertical neighbors in the periodic table, calcium and
barium. It occurs naturally mainly in the minerals celestine,
strontianite and is mined mostly from the first two of these. While
natural strontium is stable, the synthetic 90Sr isotope is radioactive
and is one of the most dangerous components of nuclear fallout, as
strontium is absorbed by the body in a similar manner to calcium.
Both strontium and strontianite are named after Strontian, a village
in Scotland near which the mineral was discovered in 1790 by Adair
Crawford and William Cruickshank; it was identified as a new element
the next year from its crimson-red flame test color.
first isolated as a metal in 1808 by
Humphry Davy using the then-newly
discovered process of electrolysis. The production of sugar from sugar
beet was in the 19th century the largest application of strontium (see
strontian process). At the peak of production of television cathode
ray tubes, as much as 75 percent of strontium consumption in the
United States was used for the faceplate glass. With the
displacement of cathode ray tubes by other display methods,
consumption of strontium has dramatically declined.
5.1 Radioactive strontium
6 Biological role
6.1 Effect on the human body
7 See also
10 External links
Oxidized dendritic strontium
Strontium is a divalent silvery metal with a pale yellow tint whose
properties are mostly intermediate between and similar to those of its
group neighbors calcium and barium. It is softer than calcium and
harder than barium. Its melting (777 °C) and boiling
(1655 °C) points are lower than those of calcium (842 °C
and 1757 °C respectively); barium continues this downward trend
in the melting point (727 °C), but not in the boiling point
(2170 °C). The density of strontium (2.64 g/cm3) is
similarly intermediate between those of calcium (1.54 g/cm3) and
barium (3.594 g/cm3). Three allotropes of metallic strontium
exist, with transition points at 235 and 540 °C.
The standard electrode potential for the Sr2+/Sr couple is
−2.89 V, approximately midway between those of the Ca2+/Ca
(−2.84 V) and Ba2+/Ba (−2.92 V) couples, and close to
those of the neighboring alkali metals.
Strontium is intermediate
between calcium and barium in its reactivity toward water, with which
it reacts on contact to produce strontium hydroxide and hydrogen gas.
Strontium metal burns in air to produce both strontium oxide and
strontium nitride, but since it does not react with nitrogen below
380 °C, at room temperature, it forms only the oxide
spontaneously. Besides the simple oxide SrO, the peroxide SrO2 can
be made by direct oxidation of strontium metal under a high pressure
of oxygen, and there is some evidence for a yellow superoxide
Strontium hydroxide, Sr(OH)2, is a strong base, though it
is not as strong as the hydroxides of barium or the alkali metals.
All four dihalides of strontium are known.
Due to the large size of the heavy s-block elements, including
strontium, a vast range of coordination numbers is known, from 2, 3,
or 4 all the way to 22 or 24 in SrCd11 and SrZn13. The Ca2+ ion is
quite large, so that high coordination numbers are the rule. The
large size of strontium and barium plays a significant part in
stabilising strontium complexes with polydentate macrocyclic ligands
such as crown ethers: for example, while
18-crown-6 forms relatively
weak complexes with calcium and the alkali metals, its strontium and
barium complexes are much stronger.
Organostrontium compounds contain one or more strontium–carbon
bonds. They have been reported as intermediates in Barbier-type
reactions. Although strontium is in the same group as
magnesium, and organomagnesium compounds are very commonly used
throughout chemistry, organostrontium compounds are not similarly
widespread because they are more difficult to make and more reactive.
Organostrontium compounds tend to be more similar to organoeuropium or
organosamarium compounds due to the similar ionic radii of these
elements (Sr2+ 118 pm; Eu2+ 117 pm; Sm2+ 122 pm). Most
of these compounds can only be prepared at low temperatures; bulky
ligands tend to favor stability. For example, strontium
dicyclopentadienyl, Sr(C5H5)2, must be made by directly reacting
strontium metal with mercurocene or cyclopentadiene itself; replacing
the C5H5 ligand with the bulkier C5(CH3)5 ligand on the other hand
increases the compound's solubility, volatility, and kinetic
Because of its extreme reactivity with oxygen and water, strontium
occurs naturally only in compounds with other elements, such as in the
minerals strontianite and celestine. It is kept under a liquid
hydrocarbon such as mineral oil or kerosene to prevent oxidation;
freshly exposed strontium metal rapidly turns a yellowish color with
the formation of the oxide. Finely powdered strontium metal is
pyrophoric, meaning that it will ignite spontaneously in air at room
temperature. Volatile strontium salts impart a bright red color to
flames, and these salts are used in pyrotechnics and in the production
of flares. Like calcium and barium, as well as the alkali metals
and the divalent lanthanides europium and ytterbium, strontium metal
dissolves directly in liquid ammonia to give a dark blue solution.
Natural strontium is a mixture of four stable isotopes: 84Sr, 86Sr,
87Sr, and 88Sr. Their abundance increases with increasing mass
number and the heaviest, 88Sr, makes up about 82.6% of all natural
strontium, though the abundance varies due to the production of
radiogenic 87Sr as the daughter of long-lived beta-decaying 87Rb.
Of the unstable isotopes, the primary decay mode of the isotopes
lighter than 85Sr is electron capture or positron emission to isotopes
of rubidium, and that of the isotopes heavier than 88Sr is electron
emission to isotopes of yttrium. Of special note are 89Sr and 90Sr.
The former has a half-life of 50.6 days and is used to treat bone
cancer due to strontium's chemical similarity and hence ability to
replace calcium. While 90Sr (half-life 28.90 years) has
been used similarly, it is also an isotope of concern in fallout from
nuclear weapons and nuclear accidents due to its production as a
fission product. Its presence in bones can cause bone cancer, cancer
of nearby tissues, and leukemia. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear
accident contaminated about 30,000 km2 with greater than 10
kBq/m2 with 90Sr, which accounts for 5% of the core inventory of
Flame test for strontium
Strontium is named after the Scottish village of
Sròn an t-Sìthein), where it was discovered in the ores of the lead
mines. Originally named strontianite by
Thomas Charles Hope
Thomas Charles Hope the
name was soon after shortened to strontium.
In 1790, Adair Crawford, a physician engaged in the preparation of
barium, and his colleague William Cruickshank, recognised that the
Strontian ores exhibited properties that differed from those in other
"heavy spars" sources. This allowed Adair to conclude on page 355
"... it is probable indeed, that the scotch mineral is a new
species of earth which has not hitherto been sufficiently examined."
The physician and mineral collector
Friedrich Gabriel Sulzer analysed
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach the mineral from Strontian
and named it strontianite. He also came to the conclusion that it was
distinct from the witherite and contained a new earth (neue
Grunderde). In 1793 Thomas Charles Hope, a professor of chemistry
at the University of Glasgow proposed the name
strontites. He confirmed the earlier work of Crawford
and recounted: "... Considering it a peculiar earth I thought it
necessary to give it an name. I have called it Strontites, from the
place it was found; a mode of derivation in my opinion, fully as
proper as any quality it may possess, which is the present fashion."
The element was eventually isolated by Sir
Humphry Davy in 1808 by the
electrolysis of a mixture containing strontium chloride and mercuric
oxide, and announced by him in a lecture to the Royal Society on 30
June 1808. In keeping with the naming of the other alkaline
earths, he changed the name to strontium.
The first large-scale application of strontium was in the production
of sugar from sugar beet. Although a crystallisation process using
strontium hydroxide was patented by
Augustin-Pierre Dubrunfaut in
1849 the large scale introduction came with the improvement of the
process in the early 1870s. The German sugar industry used the process
well into the 20th century. Before
World War I
World War I the beet sugar industry
used 100,000 to 150,000 tons of strontium hydroxide for this process
per year. The strontium hydroxide was recycled in the process, but
the demand to substitute losses during production was high enough to
create a significant demand initiating mining of strontianite in the
Münsterland. The mining of strontianite in Germany ended when mining
of the celestine deposits in
Gloucestershire started. These mines
supplied most of the world strontium supply from 1884 to 1941.
Although the celestine deposits in the Granada basin were known for
some time the large scale mining did not start before the 1950s.
During atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, it was observed that
strontium-90 is one of the nuclear fission products with a relative
high yield. The similarity to calcium and the chance that the
strontium-90 might become enriched in bones made research on the
metabolism of strontium an important topic.
The mineral celestine (SrSO4)
See also: Category:
Strontium commonly occurs in nature, being the 15th most abundant
element on Earth (its heavier congener barium being the 14th),
estimated to average approximately 360 parts per million in the
Earth's crust and is found chiefly as the sulfate mineral
celestine (SrSO4) and the carbonate strontianite (SrCO3). Of the two,
celestine occurs much more frequently in deposits of sufficient size
for mining. Because strontium is used most often in the carbonate
form, strontianite would be the more useful of the two common
minerals, but few deposits have been discovered that are suitable for
In groundwater strontium behaves chemically much like calcium. At
intermediate to acidic pH Sr2+ is the dominant strontium species. In
the presence of calcium ions, strontium commonly forms coprecipitates
with calcium minerals such as calcite and anhydrite at an increased
pH. At intermediate to acidic pH, dissolved strontium is bound to soil
particles by cation exchange.
The mean strontium content of ocean water is 8 mg/l. At a
concentration between 82 and 90 µmol/l of strontium, the
concentration is considerably lower than the calcium concentration,
which is normally between 9.6 and 11.6 mmol/l. It is
nevertheless much higher than that of barium, 13 μg/l.
Strontium producers in 2014
The three major producers of strontium as celestine as of 2015 are
China (150,000 t), Spain (90,000 t), and Mexico
(70,000 t); Argentina (10,000 t) and Morocco (2,500 t)
are smaller producers. Although strontium deposits occur widely in the
United States, they have not been mined since 1959.
A large proportion of mined celestine (SrSO4) is converted to the
carbonate by two processes. Either the celestine is directly leached
with sodium carbonate solution or the celestine is roasted with coal
to form the sulfide. The second stage produces a dark-coloured
material containing mostly strontium sulfide. This so-called "black
ash" is dissolved in water and filtered.
Strontium carbonate is
precipitated from the strontium sulfide solution by introduction of
carbon dioxide. The sulfate is reduced to the sulfide by the
SrSO4 + 2 C → SrS + 2 CO2
About 300,000 tons are processed in this way annually.
The metal is produced commercially by reducing strontium oxide with
aluminium. The strontium is distilled from the mixture. Strontium
metal can also be prepared on a small scale by electrolysis of a
solution of strontium chloride in molten potassium chloride:
Sr2+ + 2 e− → Sr
2 Cl− → Cl2 + 2 e−
CRT computer monitor front panel made from strontium and barium
oxide-containing glass. This application used to consume most of the
world's production of strontium.
Consuming 75% of production, the primary use for strontium is in glass
for colour television cathode ray tubes, where it prevents X-ray
emission. This application for strontium is declining because
CRTs are being replaced by other display methods. This decline has a
significant influence on the mining and refining of strontium. All
parts of the CRT must absorb X-rays. In the neck and the funnel of the
tube, lead glass is used for this purpose, but this type of glass
shows a browning effect due to the interaction of the X-rays with the
glass. Therefore, the front panel is made from a different glass
mixture with strontium and barium to absorb the X-rays. The average
values for the glass mixture determined for a recycling study in 2005
is 8.5% strontium oxide and 10% barium oxide.
Because strontium is so similar to calcium, it is incorporated in the
bone. All four stable isotopes are incorporated, in roughly the same
proportions they are found in nature. However, the actual distribution
of the isotopes tends to vary greatly from one geographical location
to another. Thus, analyzing the bone of an individual can help
determine the region it came from. This approach helps to
identify the ancient migration patterns and the origin of commingled
human remains in battlefield burial sites.
87Sr/86Sr ratios are commonly used to determine the likely provenance
areas of sediment in natural systems, especially in marine and fluvial
environments. Dasch (1969) showed that surface sediments of Atlantic
displayed 87Sr/86Sr ratios that could be regarded as bulk averages of
the 87Sr/86Sr ratios of geological terranes from adjacent
landmasses. A good example of a fluvial-marine system to which Sr
isotope provenance studies have been successfully employed is the
River Nile-Mediterranean system. Due to the differing ages of the
rocks that constitute the majority of the Blue and White Nile,
catchment areas of the changing provenance of sediment reaching the
River Nile delta and East Mediterranean Sea can be discerned through
strontium isotopic studies. Such changes are climatically controlled
in the Late Quaternary.
More recently, 87Sr/86Sr ratios have also been used to determine the
source of ancient archaeological materials such as timbers and corn in
Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. 87Sr/86Sr ratios in teeth may also
be used to track animal migrations.
Strontium salts are added to fireworks in order to create red colors
Strontium carbonate and other strontium salts are added to fireworks
to give a deep red colour. This same effect identifies strontium
cations in the flame test. Fireworks consumes about 5% of the world's
Strontium carbonate is used in the manufacturing of
hard ferrite magnets.
Strontium chloride is sometimes used in toothpastes for sensitive
teeth. One popular brand includes 10% total strontium chloride
hexahydrate by weight. Small amounts are used in the refining of
zinc to remove small amounts of lead impurities. The metal itself
has a limited use as a getter, to remove unwanted gases in vacuums by
reacting with them, although barium may also be used for this
89Sr is the active ingredient in Metastron, a radiopharmaceutical
used for bone pain secondary to metastatic bone cancer. The strontium
is processed like calcium by the body, preferentially incorporating it
into bone at sites of increased osteogenesis. This localization
focuses the radiation exposure on the cancerous lesion.
RTGs from Soviet era lighthouses
90Sr has been used as a power source for radioisotope thermoelectric
generators (RTGs). 90Sr produces approximately 0.93 watts of heat per
gram (it is lower for the form of 90Sr used in RTGs, which is
strontium fluoride). However, 90Sr has one third the lifetime and
a lower density than 238Pu, another RTG fuel. The main advantage of
90Sr is that it is cheaper than 238Pu and is found in nuclear waste.
Soviet Union deployed nearly 1000 of these RTGs on its northern
coast as a power source for lighthouses and meteorology
Acantharea, a relatively large group of marine radiolarian protozoa,
produce intricate mineral skeletons composed of strontium sulfate.
In biological systems, calcium is substituted in a small extent by
strontium. In the human body, most of the absorbed strontium is
deposited in the bones. The ratio of strontium to calcium in human
bones is between 1:1000 and 1:2000 roughly in the same range as in the
Effect on the human body
The human body absorbs strontium as if it were its lighter congener
calcium. Because the elements are chemically very similar, stable
strontium isotopes do not pose a significant health threat. The
average human has an intake of about two milligrams of strontium a
day. In adults, strontium consumed tends to attach only to the
surface of bones, but in children, strontium can replace calcium in
the mineral of the growing bones and thus lead to bone growth
The biological half-life of strontium in humans has variously been
reported as from 14 to 600 days, 1000 days, 18 years,
30 years and, at an upper limit, 49 years. The wide-ranging
published biological half-life figures are explained by strontium's
complex metabolism within the body. However, by averaging all
excretion paths, the overall biological half-life is estimated to be
about 18 years. The elimination rate of strontium is strongly
affected by age and sex, due to differences in bone metabolism.
The drug strontium ranelate aids bone growth, increases bone density,
and lessen the incidence of vertebral, peripheral, and hip
fractures. However, strontium ranelate also increases the risk
of venous thromboembolism, pulmonary embolism and serious
cardiovascular disorders, including myocardial infarction. Its use is
therefore now restricted. Its beneficial effects are also
questionable, since the increased bone density is partially caused by
the increased density of strontium over the calcium which it replaces.
Strontium also bioaccumulates in the body. Despite restrictions on
strontium ranelate, strontium is still contained in some
supplements. There is not much scientific evidence on risks of
strontium chloride when taken by mouth, those with personal or family
history of blood clotting disorders are advised to avoid
Strontium has been shown to inhibit sensory irritation when applied
topically to the skin. Topically applied, strontium has been
shown to accelerate the recovery rate of the epidermal permeability
barrier (skin barrier).
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WebElements.com – Strontium
The Periodic Table of Videos
The Periodic Table of Videos (University of Nottingham)
Periodic table (Large cells)
Alkaline earth metal
BNF: cb12169122m (data)