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Strontium (pronounced /ˈstrɒnʃiəm/ STRON-shee-əm, /ˈstrɒntiəm/ STRON-tee-əm, or /ˈstrɒnʃəm/ STRON-shəm) is a chemical element with the symbol Sr and the atomic number 38. An alkaline earth metal, strontium is a soft silver-white or yellowish metallic element that is highly reactive chemically. The metal turns yellow when exposed to air. It occurs naturally in the minerals celestine and strontianite. The 90Sr isotope is present in radioactive fallout and has a half-life of 28.90 years. Both strontium and strontianite are named after Strontian, a village in Scotland near which the mineral was first discovered.

Oxidized dendritic strontium

Due to its extreme reactivity with oxygen and water, this element occurs naturally only in compounds with other elements, as in the minerals strontianite and celestite.

Strontium is a grey/silvery metal that is softer than calcium and even more reactive in water, with which strontium reacts on contact to produce strontium hydroxide and hydrogen gas. It burns in air to produce both strontium oxide and strontium nitride, but since it does not react with nitrogen below 380°C it will only form the oxide spontaneously at room temperature. It should be 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 will ignite spontaneously in air at room temperature. Volatile strontium salts impart a crimson color to flames, and these salts are used in pyrotechnics and in the production of flares. Natural strontium is a mixture of four radiostable isotopes.

See also: Category:Strontium compounds

* Ferrite magnets and refining zinc.
* Strontium titanate has an extremely high refractive index and an optical dispersion greater than that of diamond, making it useful in a variety of optics applications. This quality has also led to it being cut into gemstones, in particular as a diamond simulant. However, it is very soft and easily scratches so it is rarely used.
* Strontium carbonate, strontium nitrate, and strontium sulfate are commonly used in fireworks for red color sometimes for other colors too.
* Strontium aluminate is used as a bright phosphor with long persistence of phosphorescence.
* Strontium chloride is sometimes used in toothpastes for sensitive teeth. One popular brand includes 10% total strontium chloride hexahydrate by weight.
* Strontium oxide is sometimes used to improve the quality of some pottery glazes.
* Strontium ranelate is used in the treatment of osteoporosis. It is a prescription drug in the EU, but not in the USA.
* Strontium barium niobate is used in large scale outdoors Holgraphic displays as a "screen". When projected with blue laser light images are 3-D and very realistic.

Main article: Isotopes of strontium

Strontium has four stable, naturally occurring isotopes: 84Sr (0.56%), 86Sr (9.86%), 87Sr (7.0%) and 88Sr (82.58%). Only 87Sr is radiogenic; it is produced by decay from the radioactive alkali metal 87Rb, which has a half-life of 4.88 × 1010 years. Thus, there are two sources of 87Sr in any material: that formed in stars along with 84Sr, 86Sr and 88Sr, as well as that formed by radioactive decay of 87Rb. The ratio 87Sr/86Sr is the parameter typically reported in geologic investigations; ratios in minerals and rocks have values ranging from about 0.7 to greater than 4.0. Because strontium has an atomic radius similar to that of calcium, it readily substitutes for Ca in minerals.

Sixteen unstable isotopes are known to exist. Of greatest importance are 90Sr with a half-life of 28.78 years and 89Sr with a half-life of 50.5 days.

* 90Sr is a by-product of nuclear fission which is found in nuclear fallout and presents a health problem since it substitutes for calcium in bone, preventing expulsion from the body. This isotope is one of the best long-lived high-energy beta emitters known, and is used in SNAP (Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power) devices. These devices hold promise for use in spacecraft, remote weather stations, navigational buoys, etc, where a lightweight, long-lived, nuclear-electric power source is required. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident contaminated a vast area with 90Sr. 90Sr confined inside a concave silver plaque is also used for the medical treatment of a resected pterygium.
* 89Sr is a short-lived artificial radioisotope which is used in the treatment of bone cancer. In circumstances where cancer patients have widespread and painful bony metastases (secondaries), the administration of 89Sr results in the delivery of radioactive emissions (beta particles in this case) directly to the area of bony problem (where calcium turnover is greatest). The 89Sr is manufactured as the chloride salt (which is soluble), and when dissolved in normal saline can be injected intravenously. Typically, cancer patients will be treated with a dose of 150 MBq. The patient needs to take precautions following this because their urine becomes contaminated with radioactivity, so they need to sit to urinate and double flush the toilet. The beta particles travel about 3.5mm in bone (energy 0.583 MeV) and 6.5mm in tissue, so there is no requirement to isolate patients who have been treated except to say they should not have any one (especially young children) sitting in their laps for 10–40 days[citation needed]. The variation in time results from the variable clearing time for 89Sr which depends on renal function and the number of bony metastases. With a lot of bony metastases, the entire 89Sr dose can be taken up into bone and so the entire radioactivity is retained to decay over a 50.5 day half-life. However, where there are few bony metastases, the large proportion of 89Sr not taken up by the bone will be filtered by the kidney, so that the effective half-life (a combination of the physical and biological half-life) will be much shorter.


Strontium is named after the Scottish village of Strontian, having been discovered in the ores taken from the lead mines.[2] In 1790, Adair Crawford, a physician engaged in the preparation of barium, recognised that the Strontian ores exhibited different properties to those normally seen with other "heavy spars" sources. This allowed him to conclude "... it is probable indeed, that the scotch mineral is a new species of earth which has not hitherto been sufficiently examined". The new mineral was named strontites in 1793 by Thomas Charles Hope, a professor of medicine at the University of Glasgow.[3] 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.[4][5][6]

See also: Category:Strontium minerals
Strontium output in 2005

According to the British Geological Survey, China was the top producer of strontium in 2007, with over two-thirds world share, followed by Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Argentina and Iran.[7]

Strontium commonly occurs in nature, the 15th most abundant element on earth, averaging 0.034% of all igneous rock and is found chiefly as the form of the sulfate mineral celestite (SrSO4) and the carbonate strontianite (SrCO3). Of the two, celestite occurs much more frequently in sedimentary deposits of sufficient size to make development of mining facilities attractive. Strontianite would be the more useful of the two common minerals because strontium is used most often in the carbonate form, but few deposits have been discovered that are suitable for development.[8] The metal can be prepared by electrolysis of melted strontium chloride mixed with potassium chloride:

Sr2+ + 2 e⁻ → Sr
2 Cl− → Cl2 (g) + 2 e⁻

Alternatively it is made by reducing strontium oxide with aluminium in a vacuum at a temperature at which strontium distills off. Three allotropes of the metal exist, with transition points at 235 and 540 °C. The largest commercially exploited deposits are found in England.


As a pure metal strontium is used in strontium 90%-aluminium 10% alloys of an eutectic composition for the modification of aluminium-silicon casting alloys.[9] Strontium is 2% by weight of AJ62 alloy, a durable, creep-resistant magnesium alloy used in car and motorcycle engines by BMW.
CRT computer monitor front panel made from strontium and barium oxide containing glass

The primary use for strontium compounds is in glass for colour television cathode ray tubes to prevent X-ray emission.[10][11] All parts of the CRT tube have to 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 has to use a different glass mixture, in which strontium and barium are the X-ray absorbing materials. The average values for the class mixture determined for a recycling studie in 2005 is 8.5% strontium oxide and 10% barium oxide.[12]

Scientific (low quantity) use :

* Strontium is used in studies of neurotransmitter release in neurons. Like calcium, strontium facilitates synaptic vesicle fusion with the synaptic membrane. But unlike calcium, strontium causes asynchronous vesicle fusion. Therefore, replacing calcium in the culture medium with strontium allows scientists to measure the effects of a single vesicle fusion event, e.g., the size of the postsynaptic response elicited by the neurotransmitter content of a single vesicle.[13][14]

Uses of radioactive strontium isotopes :

* 89Sr is the active ingredient in Metastron, a radiopharmaceutical used for bone pain secondary to metastatic bone cancer. The strontium acts like calcium and is preferentially incorporated into bone at sites of increased osteogenesis. This localization focuses the radiation exposure on the cancerous lesion.
* 90Sr has been used as a power source for radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). 90Sr produces about 0.93 watts of heat per gram (it is lower for the form of 90Sr used in RTGs, which is strontium fluoride).[15] However, 90Sr has a lifetime approximately 3 times shorter and has 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.
* 90Sr is also used in cancer therapy. Its beta emission and long half-life is ideal for superficial radiotherapy.

Strontium isotopes are measured for various reasons :

* Since Strontium is so similar to calcium, it is incorporated in the bone. All four stable isotopes are incorporated, in roughly similar proportions as they are found in nature (please see below). 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 as well as the origin of commingled human remains in battlefield burial sites. Strontium thus helps forensic scientists too.
* 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.[16] A good example of a fluvial-marine system to which Sr isotope provenance studies have been successfully employed is the River Nile-Mediterranean system,[17] 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 Sr 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.[18][19]
* 87Sr/86Sr ratios in teeth may also be used to track animal migrations [20][21] or in criminal forensics.

Effect on the human body

The human body absorbs strontium as if it were calcium. Due to the elements being sufficiently similar chemically, the stable forms of strontium might not pose a significant health threat—in fact, the levels found naturally may actually be beneficial (see below) -- but the radioactive 90Sr can lead to various bone disorders and diseases, including bone cancer. The strontium unit is used in measuring radioactivity from absorbed 90Sr.

A recent in-vitro study conducted the NY College of Dental Sciences using strontium on osteoblasts showed marked improvement on bone-building osteoblasts.[22]

The drug strontium ranelate, made by combining strontium with ranelic acid, was found to aid bone growth, increase bone density, and lessen vertebral, peripheral and hip fractures.[23][24] Women receiving the drug showed a 12.7% increase in bone density. Women receiving a placebo had a 1.6% decrease. Half the increase in bone density (measured by x-ray densitometry) is attributed to the higher atomic weight of Sr compared with calcium, whereas the other half a true increase in bone mass. Strontium ranelate is registered as a prescription drug in Europe and many countries worldwide. It needs to be prescribed by a doctor, delivered by a pharmacist, and requires strict medical supervision. Currently (early 2007), it is not available in Canada or the United States.

There is a long history of medical research regarding strontium's benefits, beginning in the 1950s. Studies indicate a lack of undesirable side-effects.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31] Several other salts of strontium such as strontium citrate or strontium carbonate are often presented as natural therapies and sold at a dose that is several hundred times higher than the usual strontium intake. Such compounds are sold in the United States under the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act of 1994. Their long-term safety and efficacy have never been evaluated on humans using large-scale medical trials.


1. ^ P. Colarusso et al. (1996). "High-Resolution Infrared Emission Spectrum of Strontium Monofluoride". J. Molecular Spectroscopy 175: 158. http://bernath.uwaterloo.ca/media/149.pdf.
2. ^ Murray, W. H. (1977). The Companion Guide to the West Highlands of Scotland. London: Collins.
3. ^ Murray, T. (1993). "Elemementary Scots: The Discovery of Strontium". Scottish Medical Journal 38: 188–189.
4. ^ "Strontian gets set for anniversary". Lochaber News. 19 June 2008. http://www.lochaber-news.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/2644/Strontian_gets_set_for_anniversary.html.
5. ^ Weeks, Mary Elvira (1932). "The discovery of the elements: X. The alkaline earth metals and magnesium and cadmium". Journal of Chemical Education 9: 1046 – 1057.
6. ^ Partington, J.R. (1942). "The early history of strontium". Annals of Science 5: 157. doi:10.1080/00033794200201411.
7. ^ British Geological Survey (2009). World mineral production 2003–07. Keyworth, Nottingham: British Geological Survey. ISBN 978-0-85272-639-6. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/mineralsuk/downloads/wmp_2003_2007.pdf. Retrieved April 6, 2009.
8. ^ Ober, Joyce A.. "Mineral Comodity Summaries 2008: Strontium" (PDF). United States Geological Survey. http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/strontium/mcs-2008-stron.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
9. ^ "Aluminium – Silicon Alloys : Strontium Master Alloys for Fast Al-Si Alloy Modification from Metallurg Aluminium". AZo Journal of Materials Online. http://www.azom.com/Details.asp?ArticleID=3353. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
10. ^ "Cathode Ray Tube Glass-To-Glass Recycling" (PDF). ICF Incorporated, USEP Agency. http://yosemite.epa.gov/ee/epa/riafile.nsf/vwAN/S99-23.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
11. ^ Ober, Joyce A.; Polyak, Désirée E.. "Mineral Yearbook 2007: Strontium" (PDF). United States Geological Survey. http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/strontium/myb1-2007-stron.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
12. ^ Méar, F.; Yot, P.; Cambon, M.; Ribes, M. (2006). "The characterization of waste cathode-ray tube glass.". Waste management 26 (12): 1468–76. doi:10.1016/j.wasman.2005.11.017. ISSN 0956-053X. PMID 16427267.
13. ^ Miledi, R. (1966). "Strontium as a Substitute for Calcium in the Process of Transmitter Release at the Neuromuscular Junction". Nature 212: 1233. doi:10.1038/2121233a0.
14. ^ Hagler D.J., Jr, Goda Y. (2001). "Properties of synchronous and asynchronous release during pulse train depression in cultured hippocampal neurons". J. Neurophysiol. 85: 2324.
15. ^ "What are the fuels for radioisotope thermoelectric generators?". http://www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/Power/3-what-are-the-fuels-for-rtgs.html.
16. ^ Dasch, J. (1969). "Strontium isotopes in weathering profiles, deep-sea sediments, and sedimentary rocks". Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 33 (12): 1521–1552. doi:10.1016/0016-7037(69)90153-7.
17. ^ Chester, R.; Cliff, R.A.; Eijsink, L.M.; Herut, B. (1999). "The characterisation of Saharan dusts and Nile particulate matter in surface sediments from the Levantine basin using Sr isotopes". Marine Geology 155 (3–4): 319–330. doi:10.1016/S0025-3227(98)00130-3.
18. ^ Benson, L., Cordell, L., Vincent, K., Taylor, H., Stein, J., Farmer, G., and Kiyoto, F. (2003). "Ancient maize from Chacoan great houses: where was it grown?". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (22): 13111–13115. doi:10.1073pnas.2135068100 (inactive 2009-09-13).
19. ^ English NB, Betancourt JL, Dean JS, Quade J. (Oct 2001). "Strontium isotopes reveal distant sources of architectural timber in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico". Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98 (21): 11891–6. doi:10.1073/pnas.211305498. ISSN 0027-8424. PMID 11572943. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=11572943.
20. ^ Barnett-Johnson, Rachel (2007). "Identifying the contribution of wild and hatchery Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) to the ocean fishery using otolith microstructure as natural tags". Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 64 (12): 1683–1692. doi:10.1139/F07-129.
21. ^ Porder, S., Paytan, A., and E.A. Hadly (2003). "Mapping the origin of faunal assemblages using strontium isotopes". Paleobiology 29 (2): 197–204. doi:10.1666/0094-8373(2003)029<0197:MTOOFA>2.0.CO;2.
22. ^ "The Effects of Strontium Citrate on Osteoblast Proliferation and Differentiation". http://iadr.confex.com/iadr/2007orleans/techprogram/abstract_89231.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
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External links

* WebElements.com – Strontium
* Chemistry in its element podcast (MP3) from the Royal Society of Chemistry's Chemistry World: Strontium

Chemistry Encyclopedia

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