Chem Explorers

Unveiling the Versatile Power of Strontium: From Pyrotechnics to Medicine

Strontium is an element that belongs to the group of alkali earth metals. It is known for its unique properties and applications in various industries.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the physical and chemical characteristics of strontium, its isotopes and origin, and how it is obtained in commercial production.

Definition of Strontium

Strontium (Sr) is a silvery-white metal that has an atomic number of 38 and a mass of 87.62 g/mol. It belongs to group 2 of the periodic table and has a density of 2.64 g/cm3 at room temperature.

It is similar to its neighboring elements calcium and barium and is highly reactive in nature. Strontium has an oxidation state of +2, and its melting point is 769C.

Isotopes and Origin

Strontium has four natural isotopes, named Sr-84, Sr-86, Sr-87, and Sr-88. Among these, Sr-87 is unstable and decays with a half-life of 2.8 x 1011 years.

This makes it useful in radiometric dating of geological materials.

Strontium is primarily found in the minerals strontianite (SrCO3) and celestite (SrSO4).

These minerals are widely distributed throughout the world, with significant reserves found in China, Spain, and Mexico. Commercial production of strontium involves the reduction of strontium oxide (SrO) with aluminum or electrolysis of strontium chloride (SrCl2).

Sources of Strontium and Commercial Production

The primary natural sources of strontium are the minerals strontianite and celestite. These minerals are extracted from the earth’s crust and subjected to various chemical processes to obtain pure strontium.

The process begins with the crushing of these minerals into small pieces. The extracted pieces are then passed through a series of chemical reactions, which include sulfating, chlorination, and distillation.

The resulting strontium compounds are then reduced with aluminum to obtain pure strontium. Alternatively, strontium can also be obtained through electrolysis of strontium chloride.

In this method, strontium chloride is dissolved in a molten mixture of calcium chloride and sodium chloride. Then, an electric current is passed through the mixture, causing the strontium ions to move towards the cathode, where they are reduced to pure strontium.

Applications of Strontium

Strontium has various industrial applications owing to its unique properties. One of its most common uses is in refining zinc, which is used in the production of brass and other alloys.

Strontium is also used in the manufacture of ferrite magnets, and it is an essential component of pyrotechnic flares, where it provides a bright red color.

Strontium is also used in medicine as a radioactive tracer, which helps diagnose and treat bone cancer.

The radioactive isotopes of strontium are also used in nuclear power plants to control nuclear reactions.


In conclusion, strontium is a highly reactive metal with unique properties. It has four natural isotopes, including one unstable isotope that is useful in geological dating.

Strontium is found in the minerals strontianite and celestite, and it is obtained through reduction or electrolysis. It has various industrial applications, including refining zinc, producing magnets, and pyrotechnic flares, as well as medical and nuclear applications.

Strontium is an important element that is used in many aspects of our daily lives.

Discovery and Identification

Strontium was first identified by the Scottish physician Adair Crawford in 1790. He discovered a new mineral that he named strontia, which he believed contained a new element.

Crawford sent samples of strontia to his friend, the chemist Thomas Charles Hope, who was able to isolate a new compound, which he named ‘strontium’.

Isolation of Strontium metal

The isolation of pure strontium metal was achieved by Sir Humphry Davy, an English chemist in 1808. Davy used his newly invented method of electrolysis to extract strontium from a mixture of strontium chloride and mercury oxide.

He discovered that when an electric current is passed through a molten mixture of these two compounds, strontium ions migrate towards the negatively charged electrode (cathode) and get reduced to pure strontium metal.

Physical properties of Strontium

Strontium is a silvery-white metal that exhibits many physical properties that are typical of metals. It has a boiling point of 1382 C and a melting point of 769 C.

At room temperature, it is in a solid state of matter. Strontium has a hardness of 1.5 Mohs, which is less than that of calcium but greater than that of aluminum.

The density of strontium is 2.64 g/cm^3, which makes it denser than water. However, it is not as dense as its neighboring element, barium.

Strontium is highly reactive and reacts vigorously with water, releasing hydrogen gas.

Chemical properties of Strontium

Strontium exhibits chemical properties that are similar to its neighboring elements, calcium and barium. It generally has an oxidation state of +2 in its compounds.

In its elemental form, it reacts with many non-metals, including oxygen, chlorine, and nitrogen. Strontium has four stable isotopes, namely Sr-84, Sr-86, Sr-87, and Sr-88.

Of these, Sr-87 is radioactive and decays into rubidium-87 over time. Strontium is also used as a precursor for radioactive isotopes of yttrium and zirconium, which are used in cancer treatment.

The Lewis dot structure of strontium consists of two valence electrons in the outermost shell. These valence electrons are located in the s-orbital of the atom.

Uses of Strontium

Strontium is used in a wide range of industrial applications. One of its main uses is in refining zinc, which is used in the production of brass and other alloys.

It is also used in the manufacturing of ferrite magnets, which are used in motors and electrical appliances. In the field of pyrotechnics, strontium is used in flares and fireworks.

It imparts a bright red color to the flames when it reacts with oxygen in the air.

Strontium has also found applications in medicine.

It is used as a radioactive tracer in bone scans, which helps identify and diagnose bone disorders such as osteoporosis and bone cancer. The isotopes of strontium are also used in radiotherapy to treat cancer.


Strontium is a metallic element that was first discovered in 1790. It has a number of physical and chemical properties, including a high reactivity, low hardness, and a density that is greater than water.

Strontium has various industrial and medical applications, including refining zinc, producing magnets, and diagnosis of bone disorders. It is also used in the field of pyrotechnics due to its ability to impart a bright red color to flames.

Uses of Strontium

Strontium has a wide range of applications across multiple industries due to its unique properties. It is used in the production of magnets, refining zinc, and electricity generation, as well as in the medical and cosmetic industries.

Fireworks, Road Flares, and Glow-in-the-Dark Plastics and Paints

Strontium compounds are used in pyrotechnics to produce vibrant red flames in fireworks. When strontium salts are burned, they emit a bright red color, making them a popular choice for creating the explosions in fireworks displays.

Strontium is also used in road flares, producing a vivid red light that is highly visible during nighttime emergencies. In addition to pyrotechnics, strontium is used in the production of glow-in-the-dark plastics and paints.

These products are used in various applications, including emergency signs, watch dials, and novelty products. Strontium aluminate is the compound used for these products due to its very long-lasting glow.

Magnets Production, Zinc Refining, and Electricity Generation

Strontium is a key component in the production of ferrite magnets, which are used in electric motors and appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners. Ferrite magnets are made from a mixture of strontium carbonate and iron oxide, which are sintered together to form a solid, magnetized mass.

Strontium is also used in refining zinc, which is used in the production of brass and other alloys. This process involves the use of a strontium aluminate additive, which helps remove impurities from the metal.

Strontium has also been used in electricity generation. Strontium cobaltite (SrCoO_3) is a promising material for producing electricity from heat, which is known as thermoelectricity.

Toothpaste and Pain Relief in Metastatic Bone Cancer

Strontium has been used in the cosmetic industry as a fluoride substitute in toothpaste. Strontium ions are thought to help strengthen tooth enamel and reduce painful hypersensitivity in teeth.

Accordingly, strontium-containing toothpaste has been shown to improve dental health in individuals with sensitive teeth. In the medical industry, strontium ranelate has been used for alleviating pain associated with metastatic bone cancer.

This condition occurs when cancer cells have spread to the bones, causing fractures and severe pain. Strontium ranelate is a medication that works by stimulating the formation of new bone tissue while reducing the breakdown of existing bone.

Toxicity of Strontium

Despite its many useful applications, strontium can be harmful to human health if not handled properly. Like calcium, strontium is absorbed by the bones, where it can accumulate and cause toxicity if consumed in excessive amounts.

Biological Role and Absorption of Strontium in Bones

Strontium has a biological role insofar as it is incorporated into bone tissue in the same way that calcium is. This process occurs due to the similarities between strontium and calcium, which allows strontium to bind to the same receptors and cellular pathways in bones.

In small quantities, strontium has been shown to improve bone density. However, excessive absorption of strontium can lead to skeletal abnormalities, including increased bone resorption (which may lead to osteoporosis) and decreased bone formation.

Risks Associated with Exposure to Radioactive Strontium-90

Radioactive isotopes of strontium, such as strontium-90, are highly toxic when ingested. Strontium-90 decays by beta emission, which emits high-energy electrons that can cause DNA damage.

This damage can lead to mutations that may result in cancerous growths. The risks associated with exposure to radioactive strontium-90 are greatest when the radioactive material is ingested.

Once ingested, strontium-90 can accumulate in the bones and increase the risk of cancerous mutations. Individuals who work with radioactive strontium should take special precautions to prevent accidental exposures, including wearing radiation shielding equipment and closely following established radiation safety protocols.


Strontium is an element that has a wide range of applications across multiple industries. It is used in producing fireworks, road flares, glow-in-the-dark plastics and paints, and in electricity generation, magnet production, zinc refining, as well as in medicine.

While strontium has beneficial uses, it can also pose a health risk if not handled properly. Strontium can be absorbed into bones, causing skeletal changes when overly accumulated.

Risk associated with strontium is heightened when strontium-90, the radioactive isotope, is ingested; extending a risk of cancerous mutations. Overall, the multiple benefits of using strontium must be weighed against the associated risks, and care should be taken to ensure that appropriate safety precautions are always followed.

Interesting Facts and Cost of Strontium

Strontium is an intriguing element with various properties and applications. In addition to its uses and toxicity, there are some interesting facts about strontium that are worth exploring.

Furthermore, understanding the abundance of strontium in nature, its reaction with water to form strontium hydroxide, its presence in nuclear fallout, and its cost can provide a comprehensive perspective on this element.

Abundance of Strontium in Nature

Strontium is a relatively abundant element in the Earth’s crust. It ranks 15th in terms of elemental abundance, with an average concentration of 370 parts per million.

It is more abundant than elements like cobalt and silver, but less abundant than calcium and barium, which are its neighbors in the periodic table.

Production of Strontium Hydroxide When Reacting with Water

When strontium reacts with water, it forms strontium hydroxide (Sr(OH)2). This hydroxide is a colorless and crystalline compound that is sparingly soluble in water.

The reaction is exothermic, meaning that it releases heat, and produces hydrogen gas as a byproduct. The reaction equation can be represented as:

Sr + 2H2O Sr(OH)2 + H2

Strontium hydroxide is used in a variety of applications, including as a source of strontium in the production of glass and ceramics, as a neutralizing agent in chemical processes, and as a pH regulator in water treatment.

Graphic Representation of Strontium in Nuclear Fallout

Strontium-90, a radioactive isotope of strontium, is produced during nuclear explosions and can be a significant component of nuclear fallout. It is a beta emitter, and its radioactive decay poses health risks when exposed to living organisms.

Strontium-90 can enter the food chain through plants, where it is absorbed by their roots and subsequently ingested by animals and humans. Its potential to accumulate in bones makes it particularly concerning.

To depict the extent of contamination caused by strontium-90 in nuclear fallout, scientists have used graphic representations. One notable example is the famous map created by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster.

The map showed areas of high strontium-90 contamination, with darker colors indicating greater levels of contamination. This map became an iconic image that outlined the reach and consequences of the nuclear accident.

Cost of Pure Strontium

The cost of pure strontium can vary depending on factors such as production methods, market demand, and purity levels. Generally, the price of strontium is higher compared to common metals like aluminum or iron due to its limited availability and specialized applications.

As of [current year], the cost of pure strontium per gram ranges from [price range]. It is important to note that the price of strontium can fluctuate over time due to various factors, including economic conditions and changes in supply and demand.

The cost of strontium compounds used in various industries, such as strontium carbonate used in fireworks or strontium ranelate used in medicine, may differ from the cost of pure strontium metal. Factors such as processing, purity, and market demand also influence the price of these compounds.


Strontium is an element with diverse characteristics and applications. Understanding its abundance in nature, its reaction with water to form strontium hydroxide, its graphical representation in nuclear fallout, and its cost provides valuable insights into the element’s properties and usage.

Strontium’s presence in the environment, its chemical reactions, and its economic factors all contribute to the overall understanding of this fascinating element. In conclusion, strontium is a versatile element with various applications and properties.

It is abundantly available in nature and reacts with water to form strontium hydroxide. Strontium’s presence in nuclear fallout is graphically represented, highlighting its implications.

Though pure strontium can be costly, its importance in industries and medicine cannot be understated. This article has shed light on the uses, toxicity, abundance, and cost of strontium, emphasizing the need for proper handling and understanding of this intriguing element.


1. Is strontium a common element in nature?

Yes, strontium is relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust. 2.

What happens when strontium reacts with water? Strontium reacts with water to form strontium hydroxide and releases hydrogen gas as a byproduct.

3. How is strontium represented in nuclear fallout?

Strontium-90, a radioactive isotope of strontium, is graphically represented to show areas of contamination and its reach. 4.

How much does pure strontium cost? The cost of pure strontium can vary but generally ranges from [price range] per gram.

5. What are the main applications of strontium?

Strontium is used in fireworks, glow-in-the-dark products, magnets, electricity generation, refining zinc, and toothpaste, among others. Final thought: Strontium’s diverse applications and properties make it an important element in various industries, while its potential toxicity highlights the need for responsible handling and awareness of its presence in the environment.

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