The use of lead in the chemical, oil and gas, electronics and other industries

The use of lead in the chemical, oil and gas, electronics and other industries

Lead remains an important metal in industrial processes.Despite the elimination of lead from many consumer applications in recent years, due to health and environmental concerns it is still an important metal with many uses in several industries.

Lead Pipes are used to transfer corrosive materials, powder is used as a lubricant and in the semiconductor industry and lead alloys have a wide variety of applications.

This article will provide information on its uses in industrial manufacture as well as information about Nuclead Inc. a manufacturer of lead products and related services.
Lead Pipes in Industry
For many centuries pipes were used to supply water to households, most famously during the Roman Empire. In fact the term plumber derives from the Latin word for lead.
More recently though, due to health problems associated with lead, pipes have been banned for use in the home, except for some vent and drainage systems.
Pipes are still used in industry today because of the properties that include malleability, flexibility and resistance to corrosion. Typical applications include chemical plants, paper manufacturing plants and Hydro and plating applications.
Pipe for these applications is made from either chemical Pure lead or up to 6% Lead Antimony Alloy.
Pipes are used in pulp and paper industry in cooling systems which use sulfur dioxide gases and in transporting the bleaching stock which uses hydrogen peroxide or zinc hydrosulphite and for draining the discharge from the pulp digesters
Other applications for Lead Pipes are for Soil Waste, Ventilating, and telephone and telegraph underground piping, pressure tubes (copper lead) and cable sheathing.
Lead Powder in Industry
Lead powder either as pure lead, lead oxide or litharge lead (Litharge is one of the natural mineral forms of lead oxide) find multiple applications in many industries including:
Oil and gas exploration, Radiological Medical protective clothing, Industrial X-ray shielding, Golf club manufacturing and anti-friction products.
Powered lead, powdered Babbit (see below) and lead oxide have been used in lubricating grease, to reduce or eliminate wear. Lead powder is also used as the basis for some corrosion resistant paints. Oxides are used in producing fine “crystal glass” and “flint glass” of a high index of refraction for achromatic lenses.
Powder is still used in the electronics industry even though one major use of lead for solder has been all but eliminated due to environmental concerns. For example, high density, polycrystalline photoconductors can be made by hot-pressing powdered lead monoxide. Such photoconductors will exhibit increased absorption of radiation, increased signal-to-noise ratios, and improved spatial frequency responses
Powder is also used for the preparation of pressed and bonded sputtering targets and in Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) systems
Lead Alloys
As with most metals, lead casting (heating the metal to its liquid form and then pouring into a mold) is a common method of creating the basic or complex shapes used in numerous applications.
Because lead is very soft and ductile, it is often melted with other metals to create lead alloys with specific required properties, commonly with Antimony, Tin, Arsenic, Bismuth, Copper, and Zinc
Lead antimony alloys provide additional hardness to the lead and are often used in storage battery grids, sheet lead and pipe castings. Antimony contents of lead-antimony alloys can range from 0.5 to 25%, but they are usually 2 to 5%.
Arsenic alloys are also used to increase hardness; arsenical lead is used for cable sheathing and is important in the production of round dropped lead shot.
Tin adds ductility and strength to lead. Lead alloyed with tin, bismuth, or other elements, either alone or in combination, forms alloys with particularly low melting points. Some of these alloys are referred to as fusible alloys; in particular lead tin alloys are used in lead solder and historically as pewter.
Several lead based alloys are referred to as Babbitt metal, lead Babbitt or bearing metal, and are used in the bearing surface on bearing. The name Babbit is named for its inventor Isaac Babbitt from Taunton, Massachusetts, USA, who first formulated a tin based bearing alloy in 1839. Today a several varieties lead based Babbitt alloys exist, including:
Antimony (80% lead, 15% antimony, 5% tin)
Tin (75% lead, 10% tin)
Copper-lead based Babbitt (76% copper, 24% lead)
Copper-lead-tin based Babbitt composed of (67% copper, 28% tin, 5% lead)
Originally used as a cast in place bulk bearing material, it is now more commonly used as a thin surface layer in a complex, multi metal structure.
Rod and Wire
Rod has been used in a many industrial applications including electrical interconnection in computers, lighting equipment, motor leads, heating and cooling equipment, harness fabrication and automotive.
Wire in highly pure form is commonly used in the semiconductor industry in chemical vapor Deposition (CVD) and Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) processes including Thermal and Electron Beam (E-Beam) Evaporation, Low Temperature Organic Evaporation, Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), Metallic-Organic and Chemical Vapor Deposition (MOCVD).
It is also used in gas detection and thermometry equipment. Lead wire or round extrusions, are also used were any lead round diameter is required for turning or any other fabrication purposes. It can be used for lead weights or when flexibility of the metal is needed.
Lead ribbon

Most lead ribbon is rolled for use in coating and thin film Chemical Vapor Deposition processes that are part of the creation of fuel cells and solar energy arrays.
Despite the elimination of lead in many consumer applications, most notably in plumbing, lead continues to be an extremely useful metal in a very wide range of industrial applications.


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