tin manufacture

Cassiterite (SnO2) is the sole source of commercial tin. It is extracted by the ore being crushed (1) and passed through a sink-float separation system (2). The washed ore is roasted in an oxidizing atmosphere (3) to remove arsenic and sulfur. Tungsten is removed by electromagnetic separation (4). The tin oxide is then roasted in a blast furnace (5) with coke (6). The tin produced is refined in a reverbatory furnace (7). The slag produced from the blast furnace is reworked and the tin obtained is also refined in the reverbatory furnace. Further refining takes place to remove any remaining impurities (8), before the tin is pressed and rolled (9). Tin is mainly used for electroplating or in combination with other metals as an alloy. Pure tin is used principally for coating steel to prevent corrosion. The tin is applied in a layer c.6x10-6mm (2.5x10-6in) thick by either dipping the steel into molten tin and rolling, or more commonly by electrolysis. Tin-coated steel is used extensively in the preparation of cans used for food storage because it is not poisonous. As an alloy, tin is used in solders, where its low melting point is an advantage, and in bronze, pewter and various other alloys used in machine bearings. Because of its low melting point and resistance to atmospheric corrosion, tin is used in modern glass-making processes where the molten glass is floated on a layer of molten tin in a hermostatically controlled bath and allowed to congeal. The resulting glass is so smooth that it needs no polishing or grinding.


Cassiterite. Credit: Mineral Information Institute.

Tin (Sn) is a malleable, fairly soft, silvery-white, metallic element in group IVA of the periodic table. It occurs mainly as cassiterite (tin dioxide, TnO2), from which it is obtained by smelting with coal. Tin exhibits allotropy: white (β) tin, the normal form, changes below 13.2°C to gray (α) tin, a powdery metalloid form resembling germanium, and known as "in pest."


Tin is unreactive, but dissolves in concentrated acids and alkalis, and is attacked by halogens. It is used to coat other metals to prevent corrosion, and forms part of numerous alloys, such as soft solder, pewter, type metal, and bronze.


atomic number 50
relative atomic mass 118.69
relative density 7.31
melting point 231.9°C (449.4°F)
boiling point 2,507°C (4,545°F)


Compounds of tin

Tin forms organotin compounds, used in biocides, and also inorganic compounds: tin (II) and tin (IV) salts.


Tin chloride

Either of two chlorides: tin (II) or stannous chloride (SnCl2) or tin (IV) or stannic chloride (SnCl4). Tin (II) chloride is a white, soluble solid, which can be produced by dissolving tin in hydrochloric acid. It is used as a reducing agent and also as a constituent of tin-plating electrolytes. Melting point 246°C, boiling point 652°C. Tin (IV) chloride is a colorless, fuming liquid. It is used in the preparation of other inorganic tin compounds and organic tin (organotin) compounds. When sprayed onto glass and fired, it produces a conductive coating.


Tin oxide

Either of two oxides: tin (II) or stannous oxide, SnO, a black powder used as a reducing agent; tin (IV) or stannic oxide, SnO2, a white powder (sublimes at 1,800°C) prepared by calcining cassiterite (in which it occurs naturally) or burning finely divided tin. SnO2 is used in ceramics, glass, and cosmetics, and as an abrasive.