What is Beryllium? – It Alloys, Properties, and Uses

What is Beryllium?

In the Periodic Table, Beryllium is the fourth element identified by the symbol “Be.” Beryllium is one-third lighter than aluminum, but it has six times the specific stiffness of steel, making it ideal for applications where weight and strength are critical. Many people are unaware of the unique physical and performance properties imparted to its end-use goods by this magnificent metal.

Pure beryllium is a metal that is both light and strong and exceedingly fragile. After lithium, beryllium is the lightest elemental metal with a density of 1.85g/cm3.In addition to its high melting point, tensile strength, and flexural rigidity, the grey-colored metal is much sought after as an alloying element. Beryllium is six times as strong as steel but weighs only a fifth of the latter’s weight.

It makes beryllium excellent for x-ray windows, neutron reflectors, and neutron moderators. Inhalation can cause berylliosis, a persistent and potentially fatal allergy illness, even though beryllium has a pleasant taste.

Beryllium

History of Beryllium

Beryllium is a bit new compared to the long history of metals like gold, copper, and lead. It was not until the 1920s that beryllium’s distinctive qualities and commercial value were understood. Vauquelin found beryllium by finding beryllium oxide in the mineral beryl. Because it had a pleasant taste similar to glucose, he termed it glucinium (sugar). A metallic beryllium element was first identified in 1828 by two different chemists: 

Antoine Bussy of France and Friedrich Wöhler of Germany. German telephone switchboard relays were the first to utilize copper-beryllium alloys as conductive spring components. Medical x-ray windows were the first commercial application of pure beryllium, while beryllia ceramics were used to insulate radio tube electronics. 

In World War II, Beryllium was used in marine diesel engines, parachute buckles, and high-precision aircraft gyroscopic navigation and targeting systems because of its corrosion resistance, strength, and lightweight. Beryllium has been found to moderate neutrons, making it a suitable material for nuclear weapons and nuclear processes. 

At the same age, beryllium responded to the need for a light material with dimensional stability over wide temperature ranges, as with the advent of space flight. Beryllium is a valuable structural material for space exploration and high-tech defense applications. NASA’s Mercury capsule was shielded with a beryllium heat shield during the Mercury mission.

Throughout the United States space program and military aircraft navigation, targeting, and missile defense systems, beryllium materials were extensively utilized. The use of copper-beryllium in-vehicle electronics and mainframe computer systems became important.

Beryllium’s unique electrical and thermal qualities helped personal computers and mobile phones attain new dependability, cost, performance, and compactness.

Production of Beryllium

With its high affinity for oxygen at increased temperatures and its tendency to decompose water when its oxide coating is removed, beryllium is difficult to extract from its compounds.

Most of the time, the mineral beryl is used to extract beryllium, either sintered with an extraction agent or turned into a soluble combination for further processing and use. To Beryl, sodium fluorosilicate, and soda are heated to 770°F to make sodium fluoroberyllate, aluminum oxide, and silicon dioxide. 

Make sodium fluoroberyllate, aluminum oxide, silicon dioxide, and beryl combined with sodium fluorosilicate and soda at 770 °F. Create sodium fluoroberyllate, aluminum oxide, and silicon dioxide, beryl mixed with sodium fluorosilicate and soda at 770 °F.

A solution of sodium fluoroberyllate and sodium hydroxide in water is used to precipitate beryllium hydroxide. The melt method for extracting beryllium includes grinding beryl into a fine powder and melting it to 1,650 °C.

Concentrated sulfuric acid re-heats the melt, usually producing beryllium sulfate or aluminum sulfate at 250 to 300 degrees Celsius. Aluminum and sulfur are removed from beryllium hydroxide using aqueous ammonia.

Most of the time, the mineral beryl is used to extract beryllium, either sintered with an extraction agent or turned into a soluble combination for further processing and use. Beryl is treated with sodium fluorosilicate and soda to make sodium fluoroberyllate, aluminum oxide, and silicon dioxide at 770°C. A solution of sodium fluoroberyllate and sodium hydroxide in water is used to precipitate beryllium hydroxide.

The melt method for extracting beryllium includes grinding beryl into a fine powder and melting it to 1650 °C. Concentrated sulfuric acid re-heats the melt, usually producing beryllium sulfate or aluminum sulfate, at 250°C to 300°C.

Aluminum and sulfur are removed from beryllium hydroxide using aqueous ammonia. There are two ways to make beryllium fluoride or beryllium chloride from beryllium hydroxide: sintering and melting. 

Beryllium hydroxide is treated with aqueous ammonium hydrogen fluoride to produce an ammonium tetrafluoroberyllate residue, and then heated to 1000°C to make beryllium fluoride.

Finely split beryllium and the compact metal are formed by heating the fluoride to 1650 °C with magnesium in the presence of oxygen. When coupled with carbon and chlorine, beryllium chloride is formed by heating beryllium hydroxide to produce oxide. It is then electrolyzed using molten beryllium chloride. 

Alloys of Beryllium

1. Copper Beryllium

When beryllium is incorporated into copper, it generates an alloy that has the best of all worlds: a combination of strength, formability, and springiness. However, copper’s electrical conductivity has been preserved to a large extent. Copper beryllium is widely sought after in aircraft, automotive, energy exploration, and telecommunications.

2. Nickel Beryllium

Nickel beryllium alloys are utilized in various mechanical and electrical springs to keep their performance at high temperatures without relaxing or deforming. It has excellent electrical conductivity, is formable, and is corrosion-resistant. Typical applications for nickel beryllium include household oven controllers, building fire detection and suppression systems, and high-temperature automotive engine and exhaust control systems.

Compounds of Beryllium

The oxidation state +2 is unique to beryllium-containing compounds. These substances don’t have any discernible hue to them. Toxic vapors from berylliosis-sensitive beryllium can cause dermatitis in those sensitive to it, yet it tastes pleasant. One-fifth of the world’s beryllium is used in the compound beryllium oxide in the United States. 

Because it is a white powder, beryllium oxide can be molded into any shape. Because of its limited electrical conductivity, beryllium compound, while being a metal, is regarded as an insulator. Beryllium is a good conductor of heat; thus, it’s worth noting.

Properties of Beryllium

  • Beryllium is a grayish-white metal with a non-magnetic, hard, and brittle surface. 
  • Beryllium’s atomic mass is 9.01218 u, making it relatively light. 
  • Beryllium has a density of 1.85 g/cc, making it rather light.
  • Its low density and high heat conductivity make beryllium an excellent choice for use in a building. 
  • Also, its boiling point is believed to be 1287°C and its melting point to be 2500°C.
  • In some cases, X-ray machines may use the translucent beryllium to make X-ray windows. 
  • In the atomic structure of beryllium, there are four protons and five neutrons.
  • Hydrogen gas is formed when beryllium reacts with certain acids or water. 
  • When exposed to oxygen, beryllium forms BeO (beryllium oxide), although it is resistant to oxidation at a certain standard pressure and temperature.

Uses of Beryllium

  • Due to its high melting point, it is employed in nuclear operations and has ceramic applications. 
  • In producing springs, spot-welding electrodes, gyroscopes, and non-sparking tools, beryllium metal is employed as an alloying agent. 
  • In addition to its great strength and improved resistance, beryllium metals are robust, stiff, and rigid.
  • Defense, communication satellites, and the aerospace sector use copper-beryllium alloys as structural materials. 
  • Because it is transparent to x-rays, ultra-thin foil made of beryllium can be utilized in X-ray machines to make their windows. 
  • Auto-ignition systems, lasers, high-speed computers, and microwave ovens utilize beryllium compounds.

Conclusion:

According to an estimate, beryllium is present in the Earth’s crust at a rate of 2 to 10 parts per million. A wide variety of temperatures may be handled by Beryllium metal, which is strong, light, and dimensionally stable. The element’s melting point is among the highest of the light metals. Beryllium uses in consumer electronics and telecommunications, industrial components, and commercial aerospace, defense, military, and Medical.

FAQs.

What is beryllium used for?

Beryllium is a silvery-white metal. It is relatively soft and has a low density. Beryllium is used in alloys with copper or nickel to make gyroscopes, springs, electrical contacts, spot-welding electrodes, and non-sparking tools. Mixing beryllium with these metals increases their electrical and thermal conductivity.

Is beryllium harmful to humans?

Breathing in fumes or dusts of beryllium compounds may injure the lungs. While most commonly associated with diseases of the lungs, beryllium may also affect such organs as the liver, kidneys, heart, nervous system, and the lymphatic system.

Why is beryllium highly poisonous?

It is a metal that can be very harmful when humans breathe it in, because it can damage the lungs and cause pneumonia. The most commonly known effect of beryllium is called berylliosis, a dangerous and persistent lung disorder that can also damage other organs, such as the heart.

What is Beryllium?

Beryllium is a steel-gray metal that is quite brittle at room temperature, and its chemical properties somewhat resemble those of aluminum. It does not occur free in nature. Beryllium is found in beryl and emerald, minerals that were known to the ancient Egyptians.

Why don’t we use beryllium?

Beryllium is also classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and it can cause lung cancer in people who get exposed to beryllium on a daily basis because of the occupations that require them to mine or process the metal, said Dr.

References:

  1. Beryllium – Wikipedia. (2007, December 10). Beryllium – Wikipedia; en.wikipedia.org. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beryllium
  2. What Beryllium Metal is Used For. (2018, September 26). ThoughtCo; www.thoughtco.com. https://www.thoughtco.com/beryllium-applications-3898138
  3. Beryllium | Properties, Uses, & Facts. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica; www.britannica.com. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/science/beryllium
  4. Blaszczak-Boxe, A., & @Live Science. (2017, October 7). Facts about Beryllium | Live Science. Livescience.Com; www.livescience.com. https://www.livescience.com/28641-beryllium.html
  5. Beryllium. (2012, October 8). Beryllium; www.chemicool.com. https://www.chemicool.com/elements/beryllium.html