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How is Tin used?



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Tin (Sn)

three small bottles of tin concentrate

Tin is one of the few metals which has been used and traded by humans for more than 5000 years.

Tin has the useful combinations of a low melting point, malleability (ability to be shaped easily), resistance to corrosion and fatigue, and the ability to alloy with other metals. It also is non-toxic and easy to recycle. 

The tin can is one of the most famous uses of tin. It was invented in 1810 by Peter Durand.  He coated iron cans with tin, and this provided an alternative to bottled goods.  Food could now be preserved and transported much more easily.  By 1820 he was supplying the Royal Navy with large quantities of canned food. 

One of Tin’s oldest uses is in combination with copper to make bronze. Bronze is much stronger than tin and copper alone, allowing humans to make strong weapons and tools.  One of the most important uses of tin was to coat or ‘plate’ other metals.  This helped to protect surfaces from rust and corrosion.  Tin-plated iron was manufactured in the 16th century.

Most of the world’s tin occurs as the mineral Cassiterite.


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Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Pat Comber

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