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Important Uses of Sphalerite

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Last updated date: 16th Jul 2024
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An Overview of Sphalerite

Sphalerite is the most important ore of zinc. It is a sulphide mineral with the chemical formula (Zn, Fe)S. It was discovered in 1847 by German geologist Ernst Friedrich Glocker. He named sphalerite based on the Greek word sphaleros meaning 'deceiving' because it is difficult to identify as it is often mistaken for galena, valuable lead ore.

Sphalerite Mineral


Sphalerite Mineral


Where is Sphalerite Found?

Sphalerite is formed under a wide range of low-to-high temperatures. It is mainly found in the veins and irregular displacement beds in limestone. It is deposited worldwide in hydrothermal veins and contacts metamorphic deposits in igneous rocks.


Sphalerite Properties

Sphalerite occurs in different colours and forms. Impurities, like iron, are often present.  Some varieties are pale yellow and red and are translucent due to very little iron. Some varieties are darker and more opaque because they contain more iron. Some varieties are also fluorescent in ultraviolet light. They are non-magnetic.


Given below are some physical properties of sphalerite:

  • Colour: green, yellow, light to dark brown, red-brown, red, black, and colourless.

  • Lustre: adamantine, greasy, resinous, nonmetallic, submetallic.

  • Streak: pale yellow, brownish, white often with an odour of sulphur.

  • Tenacity: brittle.

  • The dispersion of three times that of a diamond.


Important Uses of Sphalerite

  • Sphalerite is the primary ore of zinc and the zinc mined from sphalerite is used to obtain brass, an alloy of copper.

  • Crystals of suitable size and transparency are fashioned into gemstones, featuring a brilliant cut.

Sphalerite Gemstone


Sphalerite Gemstone

  • Zinc mined from sphalerite is used as a protective coating to prevent corrosion and rusting.

  • The zinc extracted from sphalerite is also used as an electrode in batteries. It allows high energy to be stored in smaller areas.

  • It is also used in making paint and dyeing.


Sphalerite Medical Uses

The zinc mined from sphalerite is also used to produce zinc supplements in the pharmaceutical industry. It is used as a micronutrient for plants, humans, and animals.


Learning by Doing

Choose the Correct Answer.

  1. Sphalerite is also called a blender.

  1. True

  2. False


  1. Where is sphalerite used?

  1. Making paint

  2. Gemstones

  3. In batteries

  4. All of the above.


Solved Questions

  1. How is Sphalerite used in the medical field?

Ans: Zinc sulphide is used to make zinc supplements.


  1. Name two metals other than zinc that are extracted from sphalerite.

Ans: Two metals other than zinc that are extracted from sphalerite are:

  • Gallium

  • Germanium


Summary

Sphalerite is an important source of many other metals such as gallium, cadmium, germanium, and indium. Some crystals have red iridescence and are called “ruby sphalerites” or “ruby jack”. Sphalerite is also called blende or zinc blende. We have discussed about the important uses of Sphalerite in detail in this article.

Mineral Sphalerite


Mineral Sphalerite

FAQs on Important Uses of Sphalerite

1. Which countries are the top producers of sphalerite?

The United States, Russia, Mexico, Germany, Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, China, Ireland, Peru, and England are the top producers of sphalerite in the world.

2. What are the common impurities present in sphalerite?

The common impurities present in sphalerite are iron, cadmium, mercury, and manganese.

3. What are the other names for sphalerite?

Sphalerite is also called by the names false galena, mock lead, and black-jack.