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Lead (and Battery) Industry – Pure Pb and Alloys

Lead – Key applications

Lead is a low melting point metal (327.4°C); it is soft, has malleability, ductility, flexibility and resistance to corrosion. Tin is similar in these attributes and both are often alloyed together. The most critical and widespread applications for Lead are in car batteries, pigments, ammunition, cable sheathing, weights for lifting, weight belts for diving, lead crystal glass, radiation protection and in some solders. The properties of Lead also make it suitable for use in paper manufacturing, chemical plants and plating.

Since lead is soft and ductile, it is normally used as an alloy with one of more of Antimony, Tin, Arsenic, Calcium and Copper. Antimony lends hardness and strength to Lead making it fit for usage in battery grids, sheets, pipes and castings. The Sb content of Pb-Sb alloys can range from 0.50% to 25% but is usually in the range 2 to 5%. Lead-calcium (Pb-Ca) alloys have now replaced lead-antimony alloys in a number of uses. These alloys contain 0.03 – 0.15% Ca for strengthening. More recently, aluminium has also been added to Pb-Ca and Pb-Sn-Ca alloys as a stabilizer for Calcium.

Battery Grid Alloys

The largest use of Lead is in the making of Lead-acid storage batteries of the type used in the automotive sector (cars, bikes, buses, trucks etc.). Such batteries have a series of grid plates made from Pb-Ca or Pb-Sb, coated with Lead oxide and kept in sulphuric acid. The Lead alloys used in battery-making, vary in chemical composition based on specific end-uses and this necessitates the presence of high-quality analytical equipment to validate the exact elemental composition of the various alloying elements.

Type Metals

These are used in the printing industry and generally consist of Pb-Sb and Pb-Sn alloys. Additions of antimony harden the alloy while tin adds fluidity and improves ease of casting. It also reduces brittleness and imparts a finer structure, thus helping obtain fine detail which is highly desirable in type setting.

Babbitt Metals

These are Lead base bearing alloys and vary widely in composition. Alloys of Lead with Tin, Antimony and Arsenic have been used for centuries as Babbitt metals. Alloys of Lead with Calcium, Tin and a couple of alkaline earth metals are also used. Arsenic is added to Lead Babbitts to improve their mechanical properties, particularly at high temperatures.

Other uses

Lead (as also Tin) alloys are used in Solders; Arsenical lead (UNS L50310) is used for cable sheathing; Lead Pipes are used to transfer corrosive materials, lead powder is used as a lubricant as well as in the semiconductor industry; Lead Rod has been used in many industrial applications including electrical connections in computers, lighting equipment etc.; Lead Wire in highly pure form is used in the semiconductor industry. So, despite the elimination of lead from many consumer applications like plumbing, it continues to be a very useful metal for industrial applications. Lead is also used for making tanks & vessels for highly corrosive gases & liquids. Lead is used in Chemical and Refining Industries for storage of highly corrosive gases & liquids and for lining the inside of such vessels. Some of its uses are:

  • Lead-lining of tanks for chrome plating, anodizing or pickling.
  • Lining of vessels for hazardous chemicals & for applying a chemical resistant coating.
  • Anodes for electro winning of copper, Cu foil production, chrome plating & anodizing.
  • Repair/maintenance of electrostatic precipitators, cooling/heating coils etc.
Lead Testing on OES – the Critical Requirements

Lead is the metal with the highest recycling rate in the world. Indeed, the Lead-acid battery is the most recycled consumer product in the world – and in North America and Europe, close to 100% of Lead is recycled. Concerns around pollution and health have seen constant pressure on the industry to adopt increasingly stringent standards – and this translates into the need for very good testing infrastructure for anyone manufacturing or processing Lead and / or its alloys.

Pure Lead

All activity in the sector begins with refining. Refiners (most of whom recycle) refine Lead to 99.99%+ purity. As such, a key elemental testing requirement involves the need to test a very wide range of elements and for each to have a very low detection limit. Without this, the purity assessment would not be accurately known. Key elements include In, Ag, Sb, As, Co, Bi, Cd and Ba – driven by parameters ranging from the efficiency and quality of the refining process (such as with Ag) to the implications on battery life (such as with Co), apart from regulatory and grade-specific requirements.

Alloy testing

Lead alloys have clearly defined ranges for the key alloying elements. Besides, It is imperative to minimize trace / tramp element concentrations. Close control of impurities and alloying elements is a must.

For this reason, the Lead industry is one that has a high baseline in terms of the quality of OES that would be deemed acceptable even at a basic level.

Metal Power OES for the Lead Industry

With the world’s widest range of Laboratory and Mobile OES – in terms of applications as well as budgets, Metal Power offers solutions for every need in the Lead industry

High-end; ultra-high purity for refiners

The Metavision-10008X is the ideal solution for the top-end users. Be it for battery manufacturers or smelters, when the highest levels of quality are sought, it is the Metavision-10008X that they should turn to for a solution. The Metavision-10008X features virtually every feature required while also making it possible to analyse – quite literally – every element on the periodic table.

With elemental capabilities across 25+ elements in Lead base (in standard configuration) and detection limits in the sub-ppm range, the Metavision-10008X is ideal for analyzing Lead of up to and beyond 99.998% purity – making it the ideal solution for the most stringent requirements.

Mid-range model for alloy makers

For firms seeking a more economical solution that still delivers ultra-low detection limits with high accuracy and precision, the Metavision-1008i3 offers a great value proposition. Spanning a similar range of elements – and with detection limits in the single ppm range for each, this model delivers 99.99+% purity analysis with ease and with high accuracy and precision.

Economical models – for applications such as solders

For manufacturers who do not require the most demanding lower limits – such as firms making solders or Babbitt metals, we offer models such as the Metavision-1008i, which combine high accuracy & precision with class-leading economy, delivering users with high performance while not busting their budgets.

For more information, product details and application-specific information,
please contact us at

Related products:

Ultra-high purity analysis (99.998% and beyond)

High-purity Lead (99.992+%) and alloy analysis

Solders, Babbit Metals and other alloys:

Related applications:

  • High purity Lead
  • Lead refining
  • Lead smelting
  • Battery alloys
  • Lead and battery recycling
  • Antimony, Calcium, Arsenic alloys
  • Babbitt metals
  • Cable casings
  • Lead solders
  • Research & Development

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