Barium | Descriptions, Properties, Uses & Facts

Barium | barium sulfate

Barium: Properties, Compounds, Applications and Facts


Barium, a chemical element with the symbol Ba and atomic number 56, is a fascinating element with a rich history and diverse applications. From its unique properties to various compounds and applications, let's delve into the intriguing world of barium.

Chemical Properties:

Symbol: Ba

Atomic Number: 56

Atomic Mass: 137.33 u

Electron Configuration: [Xe] 6s² 

Electron Configuration long form: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 5s2 5p6 6s2

Valency: +2

Barium exhibits a valency of +2, forming stable divalent cations in chemical compounds. Its electron configuration, similar to other alkaline earth metals, contributes to its reactivity and bonding characteristics.

Physical Properties:

Barium is a soft, silvery-white alkaline earth metal at room temperature. It has a melting point of 725°C and a boiling point of 1,410°C. Barium's density, at approximately 3.5 grams per cubic centimeter, gives it a solid yet relatively light structure.

Barium Compounds:

1. Barium Sulfate (BaSO4):

Barium sulfate, commonly known as barite, is a white crystalline solid that is insoluble in water. It finds applications in the oil and gas industry as a drilling mud additive and in the medical field for diagnostic imaging.

2. Barium Chloride (BaCl2):

This soluble salt is used in laboratories for various chemical analyses. Barium chloride also plays a role in the production of other barium compounds and as a reagent in chemical reactions.

3. Barium Carbonate (BaCO3):

Barium carbonate is employed in the manufacturing of ceramics, glass, and specialty glass products. Barium carbonate is also used in the production of barium oxide.

4. Barium Nitrate (Ba(NO3)2):

Barium nitrate is utilized in fireworks to produce green colors. It also has applications in the manufacturing of certain types of glass and ceramics.

Chemical Reactions:

Barium exhibits interesting reactions with other elements. For example, when exposed to air, it quickly tarnishes and forms a protective oxide layer. In water, it reacts vigorously, producing barium hydroxide and hydrogen gas.

Occurrence and Production:

Barium is not found in its elemental form in nature due to its high reactivity. Instead, it occurs in various minerals, such as barite (barium sulfate) and witherite (barium carbonate). Commercially, barium is produced through the electrolysis of molten barium chloride or by reducing barium oxide with aluminum.

Barium Sulfate Powder (BaSO4):

Barium sulfate powder, commonly referred to as blanc fixe, is a key component in industries such as oil and gas, paints, and coatings. Its high density, chemical inertness, and radiopacity make it invaluable in medical imaging.

Barium Sulfate Uses:

1. Medical Imaging:

Barium sulfate is extensively used as a contrast medium in X-ray imaging of the gastrointestinal tract. Its ability to absorb X-rays enhances the visibility of soft tissues, aiding in the diagnosis of various conditions.

2. Oil and Gas Industry:

In drilling operations, barium sulfate is added to drilling mud to control the pressure and stabilize the wellbore. This application ensures efficient and safe extraction of oil and gas.

3. Paints and Coatings:

Barium sulfate is a common filler in paints and coatings, providing improved durability, opacity, and corrosion resistance.

Barium Facts:

  • Barium was first isolated by Sir Humphry Davy in 1808.
  • Its name is derived from the Greek word "barys," meaning heavy, highlighting its high density.
  • Barium compounds are toxic, and precautions must be taken in handling and disposal.


Barium, with its unique properties and diverse applications, plays a crucial role in various industries. From medical diagnostics to oil drilling, the versatility of barium compounds underscores their significance in modern technologies and everyday life. Understanding the properties and applications of barium provides insights into the fascinating world of chemistry and materials science.

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