[Ar] 3d104s24p3
2, 8, 18, 5
Sublimes at 616°C, 1141°F, 889 K
Sublimes at 616°C, 1141°F, 889 K
Albertus Magnus
approx 1250
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Uses and Properties

Image Explanation

While arsenic's toxic nature on Earth makes it an unlikely choice for the foundation of life as we know it, its relevance in astrobiology lies in its potential as a biosignature.


Arsenic is a semi-metal. In its metallic form it is bright, silver-grey and brittle.


Arsenic: Unveiling the Unconventional Uses of a Controversial Element


Arsenic, with its atomic number 33 and symbol As, is infamous for its toxicity, often associated with tales of poisonings and murder mysteries. However, this chemical element possesses a paradoxical nature, as it has found applications in various industries that benefit our everyday lives. In this article, we will explore the unconventional and lesser-known uses of arsenic, shedding light on its role beyond its notorious reputation.


Wood Preservatives

One of the most significant uses of arsenic is in wood preservatives. Arsenic-based compounds, such as chromated copper arsenate (CCA) and arsenic pentoxide, have long been employed to protect wood from decay, fungi, and insect damage. These treatments extend the lifespan of wooden structures, including decks, fences, and outdoor furniture. However, due to environmental and health concerns, the use of CCA has been restricted in recent years.


Agricultural Pesticides

Arsenic has a history of use in the agricultural sector as a pesticide. In the past, arsenic-based compounds were used to control a variety of agricultural pests, including insects and fungi. Although their usage has decreased significantly, they have played a role in crop protection. Alternatives with fewer environmental and health risks have largely replaced arsenic-based pesticides.


Semiconductor Industry

Arsenic has essential applications in the semiconductor industry. Gallium arsenide (GaAs), a compound of gallium and arsenic, is highly valued for its semiconductor properties. GaAs-based components are used in high-frequency electronics, microwave amplifiers, and solar cells. The unique electronic properties of gallium arsenide make it indispensable in telecommunications, aerospace, and electronic devices.


Lead-Acid Batteries

Arsenic, in the form of lead alloys, has been used in the manufacturing of lead-acid batteries. These batteries are commonly found in vehicles, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), and backup power systems. Arsenic helps improve the mechanical strength and performance of the battery's grids, contributing to its longevity and reliability.


Glass Manufacturing

Arsenic compounds have a role in the production of certain types of glass. Arsenic trioxide is used as a decolorizing agent to remove impurities and achieve a clearer, colorless glass. This is particularly important in the manufacturing of optical lenses and fiberglass.



Arsenic, often associated with toxicity, paradoxically finds applications in the field of pharmaceuticals. Compounds containing arsenic, such as arsenic trioxide, have been used in cancer treatment. Arsenic trioxide is an integral component in the treatment of a rare form of leukemia known as acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).


Alloying with Other Metals

Arsenic is used to create alloys with other metals to enhance their properties. For instance, lead-arsenic alloys are employed in the production of ammunition. By incorporating arsenic, the resulting ammunition has improved hardness and strength, enhancing its performance.


Veterinary Medicines

In veterinary medicine, arsenic-based drugs were historically used to treat various livestock and poultry diseases. Although their use has waned, these drugs have played a role in ensuring the health of animals and preventing the spread of infections.



Arsenic's reputation as a deadly poison often obscures its various industrial applications. From wood preservation to semiconductor manufacturing, this controversial element has found utility in unexpected places. While its use in some sectors has diminished due to environmental and health concerns, arsenic's significance persists in specific industries.

It is essential to acknowledge the historical and current applications of arsenic and to continue exploring alternatives and safer materials. As we move forward, striking a balance between arsenic's beneficial uses and the need to protect human health and the environment remains a priority. The story of arsenic's multifaceted role serves as a reminder of the complex and often surprising ways in which elements are woven into the fabric of our everyday lives.


Arsenic, denoted by the symbol As and atomic number 33, has a storied history that spans millennia. This chemical element is notorious for its toxic properties, often associated with criminal poisonings and murder mysteries. However, arsenic's history is far more complex, marked by a range of applications, from ancient medicinal remedies to industrial uses. In this article, we will delve into the intriguing and multifaceted history of arsenic, exploring its journey from antiquity to modern times.


Arsenic in Antiquity

The history of arsenic dates back to ancient civilizations, where it was known in various forms and often revered for its medicinal and cosmetic properties. The ancient Egyptians, for example, used orpiment, a mineral containing arsenic, as a cosmetic to achieve a golden hue. It was also utilized in the preservation of mummies.

In traditional Chinese medicine, arsenic-based compounds were employed for their perceived healing properties. These early uses of arsenic reflected a limited understanding of its toxic nature and an emphasis on its aesthetic and purported medicinal benefits.


The Alchemical Era

During the Middle Ages, alchemists sought to transmute base metals into noble ones, including the elusive transformation of arsenic into gold. While these endeavors were futile, they marked a period in which arsenic was closely examined and documented, contributing to early chemical knowledge.


Arsenic in Art and Pigments

Arsenic compounds found a place in the world of art and pigments. Emerald green, a vivid green pigment, was produced using copper acetoarsenite. This pigment, despite its vibrant color, contained toxic arsenic, leading to health hazards for artists who worked with it. The dangers of these pigments became more apparent over time, and safer alternatives were sought.


Arsenic as a Poison

One of the most infamous aspects of arsenic's history is its association with poisonings. The toxic properties of arsenic became increasingly recognized, leading to its dark use in criminal activities. Arsenic poisoning was often referred to as "inheritance powder" or "inheritance disease" due to its role in a number of high-profile murder cases.

Arsenic's use as a poison was not limited to intentional harm; accidental poisonings were also common. Its inclusion in various products, such as wallpaper pigments and medicines, led to numerous cases of poisoning during the 19th century.


Scientific Advancements

The 18th and 19th centuries marked a period of significant scientific progress and a deeper understanding of arsenic's properties. Chemists began to investigate its chemical composition and behavior, laying the foundation for safer applications and more responsible handling of this element.


Arsenic in Agriculture

Arsenic found a role in agriculture during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Arsenic-based pesticides, such as lead arsenate and calcium arsenate, were widely used to control insect pests in crops. These pesticides played a vital role in enhancing agricultural productivity, but their environmental and health impacts led to their gradual phasing out in favor of safer alternatives.


Modern Uses and Regulations

In modern times, the use of arsenic has evolved significantly. While its applications in pesticides and other toxic products have diminished, arsenic continues to find relevance in various industrial processes. Arsenic is used in the production of semiconductors, where compounds like gallium arsenide are employed for their electronic properties. Additionally, arsenic has applications in metallurgy and alloy production.

The recognition of arsenic's health and environmental hazards has led to stringent regulations governing its use and disposal. Efforts to mitigate arsenic contamination in drinking water and soil have become a priority in many parts of the world.


Arsenic in Medicine

Remarkably, arsenic's historical association with poison hasn't entirely overshadowed its potential therapeutic applications. Arsenic trioxide, derived from arsenic, has been used in modern medicine to treat a rare form of leukemia known as acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Its role in the treatment of this condition is a testament to the paradoxical nature of arsenic in both toxicity and potential healing.


The history of arsenic is a captivating narrative of a chemical element that has experienced a complex and diverse journey through time. From its early use in cosmetics and medicine to its notorious role in poisonings and its modern applications in industry and medicine, arsenic's history is marked by a blend of fascination, peril, and potential.

While arsenic's dark past is well-documented, its modern applications and regulatory oversight reflect the evolving understanding of its risks and benefits. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of chemistry and apply them to improve our lives, arsenic serves as a reminder of the multifaceted nature of the elements that surround us.

Atomic Data

Atomic Radiues, Non-bonded (A): 1.85
Electron Affinity (kJ mol-1): 77.574
Covalent Radiues (A): 1.20
Electronegativity (Pauling Scale): 2.18
Ionisation Energies (kJ mol-1) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
944.456 1793.585 2735.456 4836.81 6042.88 12311.5 - -

Oxidation States and Isotopes

Common oxidation states 5, 3, -3
Isotope Atomic Mass Natural Abundance Half Life Mode of Decay
75As 74.922 100 - -

Supply Risk

Relative Supply Risk: 7.6
Crustal Abundance (ppm): 2.5
Recycle Rate (%): <10
Production Conc.(%) : 64
Top 3 Producers:
1) China
2) Chile
3) Kazakhstan
Top 3 Reserve Holders:
Substitutability: Unknown
Political Stability of Top Producer: 24.1
Political Stability of Top Reserve Holder: Unknown

Pressure and Temperature Data

Specific Heat Capacity: 329
Shear Modulus: Unknown
Young Modulus: Unknown
Bulk Modulus: 22
Pressure 400k Pressure 600k Pressure 800k Pressure 1000k Pressure 1200k Pressure 1400k Pressure 1600k Pressure 1800k Pressure 2000k Pressure 2200k Pressure 2400k
- - - - - - - - - - 22


Transcript :

Arsenic is a member of the Nitrogen group of the periodic table. Its atomic number is 33, and it is a crystalline metalloid with an outer shell electron configuration similar to that of nitrogen. It has five valence electrons. However, it has the capacity to form covalent bonds with other elements.

A common source of exposure to arsenic is through drinking water. Water contaminated with this element can affect the skin, bones, and kidneys. As a result, it is essential to consume water that is free of contaminants. In addition, it may be found in some types of insecticides. Its toxicity has been associated with lung and kidney cancer. Its toxic effects are exacerbated by prolonged exposure. The main health threat from arsenic comes from contaminated groundwater. Some countries have groundwater with high levels of inorganic arsenic. Additionally, it has a reputation for being a very lethal substance. Its presence in food and drinking water can cause nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, abnormal heart beat and can cause skin irritation.

In 1836, James Marsh developed a test to determine the presence of arsenic. His technique was able to identify even minute quantities in foods as well as in skeletal remains of humans.

In the nineteenth century, arsenic was often used in homicides. A law was passed in 1851 to regulate its sale and was leading to the creation of a Poisons Register. Anyone who purchased a poison was required to sign such register.

There were many famous people who were associated with Arsenic. One of them was Thomas Fowler. He developed a solution that was popular with Victorian prostitutes. Historically, arsenic has been associated with foul play. Several prominent murder cases have been connected to it. One of these cases involved Napoleon Bonaparte.

Another famous case is that of Marie LaFarge. Her husband was poisoned with a cake that was laced with arsenic. This led to a series of sensational murder trials. The first trial with forensic evidence sentenced the woman to death.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical that can be found in nature, and it can also be produced in the laboratory. It is a poisonous element found in soils and sediments. It combines with other metals to form ores. Arsenic occurs naturally in many parts of the world, including land, air, seawater, and plants. It is a toxic metal found in copper ores, as well as a byproduct of copper smelting operations.

In addition to its natural occurrence, arsenic is also produced in a variety of ways. Among the most common sources are coal, copper smelting, and mining. The amount present in water depends on the environment in which the water is being contaminated. Several aquifers in the United States are contaminated with this element. One is the Spokane Basin. Another is the Red River of Vietnam. The levels of arsenic in these water systems are between 7 and 9 parts per million.

The consumption of certain foods may put a lot of individuals at risk of arsenic poisoning. Meat and seafood are the most commonly contaminated.

Natural sources account for about a third of the atmospheric concentration of the element. Anthropogenic sources, on the other hand, produce about 24000 tons of arsenic annually.

It has properties that make it useful in metallurgy. However, it can also pose health risks. It is poisonous to both animals and people, and this element is known to induce cancer and liver damage. Arsenic's properties include its ability to conduct heat. It also has the ability to dissolve in strong oxidizing acids. It is a crystalline aggregate with a metallic gray color and a specific gravity of 5.73. Black arsenic is brittle and hard to smelt. Grey arsenic, on the other hand, tarnishes easily in air.

The toxicity depends on its oxidation state. Arsenic 5, for example, is relatively toxic, while the 3 is more bioactive.

Archaeologists have discovered that arsenic has been used as a pigment in ancient Egyptian artifacts. In the nineteenth century, it was regarded as a "poison of kings" due to its toxic properties. Today, it is a carcinogen. Besides being a corrosive, it can affect the immune system and nervous system, as well.

In the past, arsenic has been widely used for medicinal purposes. For example, it is often added to livestock food to promote weight gain. In addition, pyrotechnics make use of arsenic as one their components.

Both the scientific and cosmetic industries have made extensive use of it throughout the course of time. In the nineteenth century, arsenic was often used in homicide but in the early twentieth century, it was also used for rat poison.

Early physicians recommended the use of arsenicals to treat diseases, including syphilis and some tropical diseases. Since then, a number of traditional Chinese medicines contain arsenical minerals.

There are several radioisotopes of arsenic that can be used as tracers for biochemical research.

This element, is also used in the production of organic arsenic compounds. These are generally less toxic than inorganic derivative of the same and are used in the manufacture of a variety of organic materials. Last, it worths to mention that Arsenic is used as a doping agent in transistors and light-emitting diodes and it is also an important component in a wide range of alloys which some of them are used for electrical contacts in solid-state devices.


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