Antimony trichloride

Antimony trichloride is the chemical compound with the formula SbCl3. The soft colorless solid with a pungent odor was known to the alchemists as butter of antimony.

Antimony trichloride
Antimony trichloride solid.jpeg
Stereo structural formula of antimony trichloride
Ball and stick model of antimony trichloride
Preferred IUPAC name
Antimony trichloride
Systematic IUPAC name
Other names
Antimony(III) chloride, Butter of antimony, Antimonous chloride, Stibous chloride, Trichlorostibine
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.030.031 Edit this at Wikidata
EC Number
  • 233-047-2
MeSH Antimony+trichloride
RTECS number
  • CC4900000
UN number 1733
  • InChI=1S/3ClH.Sb/h3*1H;/q;;;+3/p-3 checkY
  • InChI=1S/3ClH.Sb/h3*1H;/q;;;+3/p-3
  • InChI=1/3ClH.Sb/h3*1H;/q;;;+3/p-3
  • Cl[Sb](Cl)Cl
Molar mass 228.11 g·mol−1
Appearance Colorless solid, very hygroscopic
Odor Sharp, pungent
Density 3.14 g/cm3 (25 °C)
2.51 g/cm3 (150 °C)[1]
Melting point 73.4 °C (164.1 °F; 346.5 K) [5]
Boiling point 223.5 °C (434.3 °F; 496.6 K)
601.1 g/100 mL (0 °C)[1]
985.1 g/100 mL (25 °C)
1.357 kg/100 mL (40 °C)[2]
Solubility Soluble in acetone, ethanol, CH2Cl2, phenyls, ether, dioxane, CS2, CCl4, CHCl3, cyclohexane, selenium(IV) oxychloride
Insoluble in pyridine, quinoline, organic bases
Solubility in acetic acid 143.9 g/100 g (0 °C)
205.8 g/100 g (10 °C)
440.5 g/100 g (25 °C)[3]
693.7 g/100 g (45 °C)[2]
Solubility in acetone 537.6 g/100 g (18 °C)[2][3]
Solubility in benzoyl chloride 139.2 g/100 g (15 °C)
169.5 g/100 g (25 °C)[3]
2.76 kg/100 g (70 °C)[2]
Solubility in hydrochloric acid 20 °C:
8.954 g/ g (4.63% w/w)
8.576 g/ g (14.4% w/w)
7.898 g/ g (36.7% w/w)[2]
Solubility in p-Cymene 69.5 g/100 g (-3.5 °C)
85.5 g/100 g (10 °C)
150 g/100 g (30 °C)
2.17 kg/100 g (70 °C)[2]
Vapor pressure 13.33 Pa (18.1 °C)[3]
0.15 kPa (50 °C)
2.6 kPa (100 °C)[4]
-86.7·10−6 cm3/mol
3.93 D (20 °C)[3]
183.3 J/mol·K[3]
110.5 J/mol·K[3]
-381.2 kJ/mol[3]
-322.5 kJ/mol[3]
Safety data sheet ICSC 1224
GHS pictograms GHS05: CorrosiveGHS09: Environmental hazard[5]
GHS Signal word Danger
H314, H411[5]
P273, P280, P305+351+338, P310[5]
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
Flash point Non-flammable
Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):
525 mg/kg (oral, rat)
NIOSH (US health exposure limits):
PEL (Permissible)
TWA 0.5 mg/m3 (as Sb)[6]
REL (Recommended)
TWA 0.5 mg/m3 (as Sb)[6]
Related compounds
Other anions
Antimony trifluoride
Antimony tribromide
Antimony triiodide
Other cations
Nitrogen trichloride
Phosphorus trichloride
Arsenic trichloride
Bismuth chloride
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references


Antimony trichloride is prepared by reaction of chlorine with antimony, antimony tribromide, antimony trioxide, or antimony trisulfide. It also may be made by treating antimony trioxide with concentrated hydrochloric acid.


Antimony trichloride solution in hydrochloric acid

SbCl3 is readily hydrolysed and samples of SbCl3 must be protected from moisture. With a limited amount of water it forms antimony oxychloride releasing hydrogen chloride:

SbCl3 + H2O → SbOCl + 2 HCl

With more water it forms Sb4O5Cl2 which on heating to 460° under argon converts to Sb8O11Cl12.[7]

SbCl3 readily forms complexes with halides, but the stoichiometries are not a good guide to the composition,[7] for example the (C5H5NH)SbCl4 contains a chain anion with distorted SbIII octahedra. Similarly the salt (C4H9NH3)2SbCl5 contains a polymeric anion of composition [SbCl52−]n with distorted octahedral SbIII.[8]

With nitrogen donor ligands, L, complexes with a stereochemically active lone-pair are formed, for example Ψ-trigonal bipyramidal LSbCl3 and Ψ-octahedral L2SbCl3.[9]

SbCl3 is only a weak Lewis base,[7] however some complexes are known for example the carbonyl complexes, Fe(CO)3(SbCl3)2 and Ni(CO)3SbCl3.[9]


In the gas phase SbCl3 is pyramidal with a Cl-Sb-Cl angle of 97.2° and a bond length of 233 pm.[10] In SbCl3 each Sb has three Cl atoms at 234 pm showing the persistence of the molecular SbCl3 unit, however there are a further five neighboring Cl atoms, two at 346 pm, one at 361 pm, and two at 374 pm. These eight atoms can be considered as forming a bicapped trigonal prism. These distances can be contrasted with BiCl3 which has three near neighbors at 250 pm, with two at 324 pm, and three at a mean of 336 pm. The point to note here is that the all eight close neighbours of Bi are closer than the eight closest neighbours of Sb, demonstrating the tendency for Bi to adopt higher coordination numbers.[10][7]


SbCl3 is a reagent for detecting vitamin A and related carotenoids in the Carr-Price test. The antimony trichloride reacts with the carotenoid to form a blue complex that can be measured by colorimetry.

Antimony trichloride has also been used as an adulterant to enhance the louche effect in absinthe. It has been used in the past to dissolve and remove horn stubs from calves without having to cut them off.

It is also used as a catalyst for polymerization, hydrocracking, and chlorination reactions; as a mordant; and in the production of other antimony salts. Its solution is used as an analytical reagent for chloral, aromatics, and vitamin A.[11] It has a very potential use as a Lewis acid catalyst in synthetic organic transformation.

A solution of antimony trichloride in liquid hydrogen sulfide is a good conductor, though the applications of such are limited by the very low temperature or high pressure required for hydrogen sulfide to be liquid.[12]

References in popular cultureEdit

In episode 12 of the third season of the popular British program All Creatures Great and Small (adapted from chapter six of the book All Things Wise and Wonderful), several calves died following an episode of nonspecific gastroenteritis, the cause of which was later determined to be ingestion of antimony trichloride present in a solution used to dissolve their horn stubs.


  1. ^ a b c "Antimony Trichloride, SbCl3".
  2. ^ a b c d e f Seidell, Atherton; Linke, William F. (1952). Solubilities of Inorganic and Organic Compounds. Van Nostrand.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Antimony(III) chloride".
  4. ^ Antimony trichloride in Linstrom, Peter J.; Mallard, William G. (eds.); NIST Chemistry WebBook, NIST Standard Reference Database Number 69, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg (MD), (retrieved 2014-05-28)
  5. ^ a b c d Sigma-Aldrich Co., Antimony(III) chloride. Retrieved on 2014-05-29.
  6. ^ a b NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. "#0036". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  7. ^ a b c d Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, Alan (1984). Chemistry of the Elements. Oxford: Pergamon Press. pp. 558–571. ISBN 978-0-08-022057-4.
  8. ^ Zarychta, B.; Zaleski, J. "Phase transitions mechanism and distortion of SbCl63− octahedra in bis(n-butylammonium) pentachloroantimonate(III) (C4H9NH3)2[SbCl5]". Z. Naturforsch. B 2006, 61, 1101–1109. Abstract (PDF)
  9. ^ a b "Antimony: Inorganic Chemistry" R. Bruce King Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry Editor R Bruce King (1994) John Wiley and Sons ISBN 0-471-93620-0
  10. ^ a b Wells A.F. (1984) Structural Inorganic Chemistry 5th edition, pp. 879 - 884, Oxford Science Publications, ISBN 0-19-855370-6
  11. ^ Patnaik, P. Handbook of Inorganic Chemicals. McGraw-Hill, 2002, ISBN 0-07-049439-8.
  12. ^ Wilkinson, John A. (1931). "Liquid Hydrogen Sulfide as a Reaction Medium". Chemical Reviews. 8 (2): 237–250. doi:10.1021/cr60030a005. ISSN 0009-2665.

External linksEdit