Barium is a chemical element with the symbol Ba and atomic number 56. It is the fifth element in group 2 and is a soft, silvery alkaline earth metal. Because of its high chemical reactivity, barium is never found in nature as a free element.
The most common minerals of barium are baryte (barium sulfate, BaSO4) and witherite (barium carbonate, BaCO3). The name barium originates from the alchemical derivative "baryta", from Greek βαρὺς (barys), meaning 'heavy'. Baric is the adjectival form of barium. Barium was identified as a new element in 1772, but not reduced to a metal until 1808 with the advent of electrolysis.
Barium has few industrial applications. Historically, it was used as a getter for vacuum tubes and in oxide form as the emissive coating on indirectly heated cathodes. It is a component of YBCO (high-temperature superconductors) and electroceramics, and is added to steel and cast iron to reduce the size of carbon grains within the microstructure. Barium compounds are added to fireworks to impart a green color. Barium sulfate is used as an insoluble additive to oil well drilling fluid. In a purer form it is used as X-ray radiocontrast agents for imaging the human gastrointestinal tract. Water-soluble barium compounds are poisonous and have been used as rodenticides.