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Industrial Production of Tin Chemicals

Posted by: Paul Cusack
31st Aug 2011
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Industrial Production of Tin Chemicals

Although the use of tin in chemical applications is relatively small, this sector remains one of the fastest growing areas, having increased from around 5% in the early 1970s to 14% today, accounting for annual tin usage of over 40,000 tonnes.

Tin chemicals exhibit a wide range of properties that can often be tailored to meet the requirements of specific end users, and are often effective in low concentrations, making them advantageous from a formulation and cost effectiveness point of view.

The main chemicals used in industry can be conveniently divided into two classes – inorganic tin compounds, which can be further sub-divided into tin(II) or 'stannous' and tin(IV) or 'stannic' compounds, and organotin compounds which contain at least one direct bond between tin and carbon.

Inorganic tin compounds have found use since ancient times – Babylonian and Assyrian wall tiles from the 9th century BC were decorated with an opaque white glaze based on tin(IV) oxide (SnO2). However, the first known organotin compound, diethyltin di-iodide, was not synthesised until 1849, and commercial applications for organotins did not materialise for nearly a hundred years thereafter.

Whereas most of the industrially important inorganic tin(II) and tin(IV) compounds can be prepared directly from tin metal, the manufacture of organotin chemicals nearly always involves conversion of tin(IV) chloride (SnCl4) to the corresponding tetraorganotin, followed by redistribution reactions to produce the required organotin derivative.

There are believed to be at least 100 companies manufacturing tin chemicals worldwide, major producing countries being the USA, Japan, Germany and PR China.