An Overview about the Chemical Element Beryllium


Symbol: Be

Atomic Number: 4

Atomic Mass: 9.012182 amu (atomic mass units)

Melting Point: 1278.0 C (1551.15 K, 2332.4 F)

Boiling Point: 2970.0 C (3243.15 K, 5378.0 F)

Number of Protons: 4

Number of Electrons: 4

Number of Neutrons: 5

Classification: Alkaline Earth Metal

Crystal Structure: Hexagonal

Density @ 293 K: 1.85 grams per cubic centimeter

Color: gray

Beryllium is found in the gem stones Beryl and Emerald and it is from the name of one of these that the element gets its name. Both of these gems are made of the same mineral: beryllium aluminum silicate. In 1797 the French chemist Nicholas Louis Vauquelin identified the element in samples of both of the gemstones. It was not until thirty years later, in 1828, that a pure sample of the metal was produced. Friedrich Wohler in Germany and A. Bussy in France in two independent experiments but using the same method managed to produce the pure element. They reduced beryllium chloride with potassium in a platinum crucible.

At one time beryllium was known by the name glucinium, which means sweet, because the element along with many of its compounds was found to have a sweet taste. Unfortunately, particularly for the chemists who found out about this particular property, the element and its compounds are also poisonous and as such has no biological role.

There is one stable naturally occurring isotope of beryllium that is beryllium-9. In addition nine unstable isotopes of the element have been recognized.

Beryllium is extracted by chemical processes from the minerals beryl and bertrandite. It can also be produced by the electrolysis of a molten mixture of sodium chloride and beryllium chloride.

A number of uses for beryllium have been identified over the years.

* Beryllium is relatively transparent to X-rays. This property makes it valuable in the production of X-ray tubes.

* It is used as a neutron source as it emits neutrons when exposed alpha particles.

* An alloy consisting of 98% copper and 2% beryllium is very hard wearing and is used in the production of gyroscopes. This alloy is known as beryllium bronze.

* Nickel beryllium alloy again with 2% beryllium is used to produce spot welding electrodes as well as springs and non-sparking tools.

* Other beryllium alloys are employed in production of the space shuttle along with making windshields and brake disks.

* The compound beryllium oxide is used by both the nuclear and ceramic industries.