A series of articles on the different elements. The Lego blocks with which we, our earth and the matter of the universe are built all have their own specific properties. In this series we go through each element step by step and we look at some useful things the wikipedia has to say about it, along with an interesting video of the University of Nottingham with which various experiments are done with the element in question.
Today number 4 of the 118 elements, Beryllium (Be).
Where is a lot of beryllium found?
Beryllium is a fairly rare element that is mainly found in the earth's crust. In seawater, the concentration is extremely low. Minerals with a lot of beryllium include beryl (including emerald) and bertrandite. These occur in Madagascar, Russia, the US and Brazil, among others.
What are the properties of beryllium?
Beryllium is about twice as dense as water (so five times as light as steel) and superior in strength to steel in some respects (modulus of elasticity, bending resistance), making it a desirable construction material. Beryllium, in combination with an alpha particle-releasing source such as radium, is a strong neutron source, which means that the material is also used for nuclear applications. An extremely unpleasant trait of the element, however, is its extreme toxicity. Exposure to beryllium vapor or beryllium dust results in berylliosis, a deadly disease in severe poisoning.
It is a good material for making X-ray windows because this radiation is not strongly absorbed given the low mass density of beryllium and the metal on the other hand is strong enough to seal a vacuum system.
When exposed to α radiation, it has the property neutrons to release. So it is used as a weak neutron source.
Especially in alloys with buyer the element is widely used because these materials exhibit good properties. They are good conductors of both electricity and heat, they are light, strong, rigid and hard, and resist corrosion and fatigue. They are used in spot welding electrodes, springs and electrical contacts. They are common in aviation, aerospace and defense industry applied.
The element is also used in the nuclear industry, it has a low diameter for trapping thermal neutrons. Beryllium is also an essential part of a new type of more economical and safer fuel rods for nuclear reactors.
Beryllium oxide is increasingly used as a material for loudspeaker cones.