Tin is a malleable, ductile and highly crystalline silvery-white metal. When it is bent, a crackling sound known as the “tin cry” can be heard from the twinning of the crystals. It is described as a screeching Dznails-on-chalkboarddz sound. Tin is a soft, very light and easy to melt. Being so soft, tin is rarely used as a pure metal; instead, it is combined with other metals to make alloys that are stronger but include tin’s properties such as low toxicity level and a high resistance to corrosion. Tin alloys can be found in many applications, such as automobile parts (alloyed with iron), dental amalgams (alloyed with silver) and aerospace metals (alloyed with aluminium and titanium).
Items that we associate with tin, such as “tin cans” and “tinfoil”, are in fact inaccurately named. Tin cans are, made from a compound referred to as tinplate, which is steel sheet metal that has been coated with a thin layer of tin. Tinplate efficiently combines the strength of steel with tin’s lustre, corrosion resistance, and low toxicity. This industry is the largest consumer of tin, using tinplate to manufacture (tin) cans for food and drinks, cosmetics, fuel, oil, paints and other chemicals.
Tin’s more modern application is as a solder for the electronics industry. Used in various purities and alloys (often with lead or indium), tin solders have a low melting point, which makes them suitable for bonding materials.
Tin is most often produced from the mineral cassiterite, which is made-up of about 80% tin. Most tin is found in alluvial deposits, riverbeds, and former riverbeds, because of erosion of ore bodies containing the metal. Tin does not occur naturally and must be extracted from ores. Ore mining mainly occurs in China, Indonesia, Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia.
- Tinplate “tin” cans