AskDefine | Define chromium

Dictionary Definition

chromium n : a hard brittle blue-white multivalent metallic element; resistant to corrosion and tarnishing [syn: Cr, atomic number 24]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. a metallic chemical element (symbol Cr) with an atomic number of 24.


  • chrome (when used for plating)

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For etymology and more information refer to: (A lot of the translations were taken from that site with permission from the author)

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Extensive Definition

Chromium () is a chemical element which has the symbol Cr and atomic number 24. It is a steel-gray, lustrous, hard metal that takes a high polish and has a high melting point. It is also odourless, tasteless, and malleable.


On 26 July 1761, Johann Gottlob Lehmann found an orange-red mineral in the Ural Mountains which he named Siberian red lead. Though misidentified as a lead compound with selenium and iron components, the material was in fact lead chromate with a formula of PbCrO4, now known as the mineral crocoite.
In 1770, Peter Simon Pallas visited the same site as Lehmann and found a red "lead" mineral that had very useful properties as a pigment in paints. The use of Siberian red lead as a paint pigment developed rapidly. A bright yellow made from crocoite also became fashionable.
In 1797, Louis Nicolas Vauquelin received samples of crocoite ore. He was able to produce chromium oxide with a chemical formula of CrO3, by mixing crocoite with hydrochloric acid. In 1798, Vauquelin discovered that he could isolate metallic chromium by heating the oxide in a charcoal oven. He was also able to detect traces of chromium in precious gemstones, such as ruby, or emerald. Later that year he successfully isolated elemental chromium.
During the 1800s chromium was primarily used as a component of paints and in tanning salts but now metal alloys account for 85% of the use of chromium. The remainder is used in the chemical industry and refractory and foundry industries.
Chromium was named after the Greek word "Chrôma" meaning color, because of the many colorful compounds made from it.

Occurrence and production

Chromium is mined as chromite (FeCr2O4) ore. About two-fifths of the chromite ores and concentrates in the world are produced in South Africa, while Kazakhstan, India, Russia, and Turkey are also substantial producers. Untapped chromite deposits are plentiful, but geographically concentrated in Kazakhstan and southern Africa.
Approximately 15 million tons of marketable chromite ore were produced in 2000, and converted into approximately 4 million tons of ferro-chrome with an approximate market value of 2.5 billion United States dollars.
Though native chromium deposits are rare, some native chromium metal has been discovered. The Udachnaya Mine in Russia produces samples of the native metal. This mine is a kimberlite pipe rich in diamonds, and the reducing environment so provided helped produce both elemental chromium and diamond. (See also chromium minerals)
Chromium is obtained commercially by heating the ore in the presence of aluminium or silicon.

Chemical properties

Chromium is a member of the transition metals, in group 6. Chromium(0) has an electronic configuration of 4s13d5, due to the lower energy of the high spin configuration. Chromium exhibits a wide range of possible oxidation states. The most common oxidation states of chromium are +2, +3, and +6, with +3 being the most stable. +1, +4 and +5 are rare. Chromium compounds of oxidation state +6 are powerful oxidants.
Chromium is passivated by oxygen, forming a thin (usually a few atoms thick being transparent because of thickness) protective oxide surface layer with another element such as nickel, and/or iron. It forms a compound called a spinel structure which, being very dense, prevents diffusion of oxygen into the underlying layer. (In iron or plain carbon steels the oxygen actually migrates into the underlying material.) Chromium is usually plated on top of a nickel layer which may or may not have been copper plated first. Chromium as opposite to most other metals such as iron and nickel does not suffer from hydrogen embrittlement. It does though suffer from nitrogen embrittlement and hence no straight chromium alloy has ever been developed. Below the pourbaix diagram can be seen, it is important to understand that the diagram only displays the thermodynamic data and it does not display any details of the rates of reaction.


Potassium dichromate is a powerful oxidizing agent and is the preferred compound for cleaning laboratory glassware of any trace organics. It is used as a saturated solution in concentrated sulfuric acid for washing the apparatus. For this purpose, however, sodium dichromate is sometimes used because of its higher solubility (5 g/100 ml vs. 20 g/100 ml respectively). Chrome green is the green oxide of chromium, Cr2O3, used in enamel painting, and glass staining. Chrome yellow is a brilliant yellow pigment, PbCrO4, used by painters.
Chromic acid has the hypothetical structure H2CrO4. Neither chromic nor dichromic acid is found in nature, but their anions are found in a variety of compounds. Chromium trioxide, CrO3, the acid anhydride of chromic acid, is sold industrially as "chromic acid".

Chromium and the quintuple bond

Chromium is notable for its ability to form quintuple covalent bonds. The synthesis of a compound of chromium(I) and a hydrocarbon radical was shown via X-ray diffraction to contain a quintuple bond of length 183.51(4) pm (1.835 angstroms) joining the two central chromium atoms. This was accomplished through the use of an extremely bulky monodentate ligand which through its sheer size prevents further coordination. Chromium currently remains the only element for which quintuple bonds have been observed.


Uses of chromium:

Biological role

Trivalent chromium (Cr(III), or Cr3+) is required in trace amounts for sugar metabolism in humans (Glucose Tolerance Factor) and its deficiency may cause a disease called chromium deficiency. In contrast, hexavalent chromium is very toxic and mutagenic when inhaled as publicized by the film Erin Brockovich. Cr(VI) has not been established as a carcinogen when not inhaled but in solution it is well established as a cause of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD).
Recently it was shown that the popular dietary supplement chromium picolinate complex generates chromosome damage in hamster cells. In the United States the dietary guidelines for daily chromium uptake were lowered from 50-200 µg for an adult to 35 µg (adult male) and to 25 µg (adult female).


Naturally occurring chromium is composed of three stable isotopes; 52Cr, 53Cr, and 54Cr with 52Cr being the most abundant (83.789% natural abundance). Nineteen radioisotopes have been characterized with the most stable being 50Cr with a half-life of (more than) 1.8x1017 years, and 51Cr with a half-life of 27.7 days. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lives that are less than 24 hours and the majority of these have half-lives that are less than 1 minute. This element also has 2 meta states.
53Cr is the radiogenic decay product of 53Mn. Chromium isotopic contents are typically combined with manganese isotopic contents and have found application in isotope geology. Mn-Cr isotope ratios reinforce the evidence from 26Al and 107Pd for the early history of the solar system. Variations in 53Cr/52Cr and Mn/Cr ratios from several meteorites indicate an initial 53Mn/55Mn ratio that suggests Mn-Cr isotope systematics must result from in-situ decay of 53Mn in differentiated planetary bodies. Hence 53Cr provides additional evidence for nucleosynthetic processes immediately before coalescence of the solar system.
The isotopes of chromium range in atomic weight from 43 u (43Cr) to 67 u (67Cr). The primary decay mode before the most abundant stable isotope, 52Cr, is electron capture and the primary mode after is beta decay.


Chromium metal and chromium(III) compounds are not usually considered health hazards; chromium is an essential trace mineral. However, hexavalent chromium (chromium VI) compounds can be toxic if orally ingested or inhaled. The lethal dose of poisonous chromium (VI) compounds is about one half teaspoon of material. Most chromium (VI) compounds are irritating to eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Chronic exposure to chromium (VI) compounds can cause permanent eye injury, unless properly treated. Chromium(VI) is an established human carcinogen. An investigation into hexavalent chromium release into drinking water formed the plot of the motion picture Erin Brockovich.
World Health Organization recommended maximum allowable concentration in drinking water for chromium (VI) is 0.05 milligrams per liter. Hexavalent chromium is also one of the substances whose use is restricted by the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive.
As chromium compounds were used in dyes and paints and the tanning of leather, these compounds are often found in soil and groundwater at abandoned industrial sites, now needing environmental cleanup and remediation per the treatment of brownfield land. Primer paint containing hexavalent chromium is still widely used for aerospace and automobile refinishing applications.


External links

chromium in Afrikaans: Chroom
chromium in Arabic: كروم
chromium in Asturian: Cromu (elementu)
chromium in Azerbaijani: Xrom
chromium in Bengali: ক্রোমিয়াম
chromium in Belarusian: Хром
chromium in Bosnian: Hrom
chromium in Bulgarian: Хром
chromium in Catalan: Crom
chromium in Czech: Chróm
chromium in Corsican: Cromu
chromium in Danish: Krom
chromium in German: Chrom
chromium in Estonian: Kroom
chromium in Modern Greek (1453-): Χρώμιο
chromium in Spanish: Cromo
chromium in Esperanto: Kromo
chromium in Basque: Kromo
chromium in Persian: کروم
chromium in French: Chrome
chromium in Friulian: Crom
chromium in Manx: Cromium
chromium in Galician: Cromo
chromium in Korean: 크로뮴
chromium in Armenian: Քրոմ
chromium in Hindi: क्रोमियम
chromium in Croatian: Krom
chromium in Ido: Kromio
chromium in Indonesian: Kromium
chromium in Icelandic: Króm
chromium in Italian: Cromo
chromium in Hebrew: כרום
chromium in Kannada: ಕ್ರೋಮಿಯಮ್
chromium in Swahili (macrolanguage): Chromi
chromium in Haitian: Kwòm
chromium in Kurdish: Krom
chromium in Latin: Chromium
chromium in Latvian: Hroms
chromium in Luxembourgish: Chrom
chromium in Lithuanian: Chromas
chromium in Lojban: rogjinme
chromium in Hungarian: Króm
chromium in Macedonian: Хром
chromium in Malayalam: ക്രോമിയം
chromium in Maori: Konukita
chromium in Malay (macrolanguage): Kromium
chromium in Dutch: Chroom (element)
chromium in Japanese: クロム
chromium in Norwegian: Krom
chromium in Norwegian Nynorsk: Krom
chromium in Occitan (post 1500): Cròme
chromium in Uzbek: Xrom
chromium in Low German: Chrom
chromium in Polish: Chrom
chromium in Portuguese: Crômio
chromium in Romanian: Crom
chromium in Quechua: Krumu
chromium in Russian: Хром
chromium in Saterfriesisch: Chrom
chromium in Albanian: Kromi
chromium in Sicilian: Cromu
chromium in Simple English: Chromium
chromium in Slovak: Chróm
chromium in Slovenian: Krom
chromium in Serbian: Хром
chromium in Serbo-Croatian: Hrom
chromium in Finnish: Kromi
chromium in Swedish: Krom
chromium in Tamil: குரோமியம்
chromium in Thai: โครเมียม
chromium in Vietnamese: Crom
chromium in Turkish: Krom
chromium in Ukrainian: Хром
chromium in Chinese: 铬
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