Periodic Table -> Beryllium


Beryllium Details

Beryllium Symbol: Be

Beryllium Atomic Number: 4

Beryllium Atomic Weight: 9.0122

What is Beryllium?

Beryllium (atomic number 4, symbol Be) is a divalent chemical metal which occurs in nature in a combination with different minerals and metals. It is found in the composition of some noble gemstones, including chrysoberyl and beryl. In a free state, beryllium is a lightweight, strong, brittle, and steel-grey, alkaline earth metal.

This metal is mostly used to harden alloys and specifically beryllium copper. Due to its thermal stability, flexural rigidity, low density, and thermal conductivity, beryllium is used in structural applications, with its qualities making it an aerospace material. It is used for space vehicles, missiles, high speed aircraft, and communication satellites. Because of its atomic mass and low density, the metal is transparent of ionizing radiation such as X-rays. It is also widely used in experiments in particle physics and for X-ray equipment. Due to their high thermal conductivity, beryllium oxide and beryllium are used in heat sinking applications and heat transport.

It should be noted that beryllium is a very toxic metal and exposure to it, which is above the threshold value, may result in berylliosis or acute beryllium disease. Toxic exposure occurs most often through inhalation. Different effects have been associated with beryllium. Combined with protein, beryllium can be deposited in the kidneys, spleen, and liver. In a combination with a biological protein, beryllium can case a chronic condition, associated with a hypersensitivity response of the immune system. The toxic effects of beryllium are mainly associated with the respiratory system - the alveoli and the lungs in general.

Before the discovery of its toxic effects, beryllium was widely used is many industrial sectors. Today, strict regulations have been set in place as to protect the persons who work with and directly handle beryllium. Thanks to these regulations, the meal is relatively safe to work with and is employed in the production of various products.

Beryllium was first discovered by the French chemist L.M. Vauquelin in 1798. While working with aluminum, he observed some white powder which did not resemble aluminum or the derivatives of aluminum. The chemist called it gluinium because it tasted sweet as glucose. It was not until 1828 when the German metallurgist Wohler managed to reduce the element to its metallic form, renaming it beryllium. Beryllium did not have commercial applications until the beryllium-aluminum alloy was patented by Cooper. After it was patented, Charles II became interested with the metal because of its nuclear cross section, high heat absorption, stiffness, and light weight. Several of its properties were found to be of significant value to today’s industry. Among these are its low density and high stiffness to weight ratio. In addition, beryllium has a very high melting point, low thermal expansion coefficient, and good electrical conductive and thermal properties. Moreover, alloys that contain beryllium are resistant to corrosion, and the addition of small amounts of the metal to alloys gives them a good resistance when it comes to metal fatigue.

Beryllium is used to make mirrors, radiation windows, electronics, magnetic applications, nuclear applications, and more. It is also used for the production of high frequency speaker drivers because of its high rigidity and low weight. Finally, beryllium oxide is used in applications requiring the combination of two properties – those of heat conductor and electrical insulator. Beryllium oxide is often employed as an insulator in the production of radio frequency transmitters.

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