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Case studies / Friction
Bismuth-based products not as rare as it is thought. Why now is the time?
In your opinion, which are the metals that are mostly used on friction materials nowadays?

Imagine we had the opportunity to do a massive survey asking this question to friction industry formulators.

They’d surely answer iron in first place, probably followed by copper, zinc, tin, maybe aluminium…But presumably not bismuth! It sounds quite an exotic metal, isn’t it? If you think this metal is more present in investigation laboratories rather than in industrial massive plants, you’d better leave the twentieth century behind and go deep in the environmental trends of 2020’s.

It is true nevertheless, bismuth had few commercial applications at the beginning of the century, and those applications that use it generally require small quantities relatively to other raw materials.

The inflection point came when concerns over lead toxicity paved the way towards the evolution of bismuth replacing lead for a variety of applications.

Several of the new applications in free machining steels, lead free solders and galvanizing had the size and potential growth to put intense pressure on demand for bismuth, and of course they did!

Searching on ECHA the CAS Nº for bismuth on its metal form, as well as for its sulfide (Bi2S3) and its derived oxide (Bi2O3) “No hazards have been classified”, and so, applications for this metal increased even more. In fact, it is currently being used in large scale on fine electronic components, antibacterials, tissue engineering, biosensing etc.

The increase in volume production of Bi metal broughts a drop on the prices, reducing the bismuth price to 30%

This immediate impact on the market made bismuth’s usage feasible for the friction industry. So let’s bring this back to reflect, while the price of metals such as tin and antimony increase and become more and more unstable, bismuth is doing the exact opposite, and there isn’t any forecast that sees this situation changing soon!

And now we stretch a bit more the focus on materials science

and realize that some products that have been commonly used such as antimony trisulfide or tin sulfides, and of course tin powder, have now a serious contendant, which not only is able to provide a similar effect, or even an improvement, but also it is reaching its price level, if it has not already done so.

And that’s why this metal is already being used for the most advanced friction material manufacturers from a technical perspective, and of course we are ready for it!

At rimsa, bismuth sulfide in pure (BI81) and composite (BI65) compositions are available, to match the requirements of your application. Thanks to our production technology, we ensure consistent quality and very stable chemical composition, without impurities and free of heavy metals. And yet are more bismuth-based products to come!

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