Beryllium is an element having a hexagonal closely packed structure and a hardness value of 5.5 on Moh's scale of hardness. Read on to find out the properties and uses of this metallic element.
Beryllium is a chemical element that was discovered by Louis Nicolas Vauquelin. It is primarily obtained from a compound named beryl. This element is denoted by the symbol 'Be' and has the atomic number 4. This bivalent element is steel gray or silvery white in color.
It belongs to the group of alkaline earth metals. In nature, it is found combined with other elements in minerals. It is present in almost 30 different mineral species, including, bertrandite, beryl, chrysoberyl, and phenacite.
✤ Beryllium is an alkaline earth metal with a number of desirable properties. Of all the metals, it has one of the highest melting points of 1,287°C (1560.15°K). ✤ It is the lightest of all rigid metals and has an atomic density of 1.85 g/cm3. ✤ Its modulus of elasticity is about one-third greater than that of steel.
✤ This alloy is non-magnetic and has an excellent thermal conductivity. It is also a good electrical insulator and has high permeability to X-rays. ✤ The atomic mass of this element is 9.012 amu. ✤ It is placed in the group 2 (s-block) and period 2 of the periodic table.
✤ The electronic configuration of beryllium is [He] 2s2. This implies that it contains 2 electrons in the first shell and two in the second shell. ✤ Its boiling point is 2,970°C (3243.15°K). ✤ The heat of fusion for this element is 12.2 kJ/mol and heat of vaporization is 292 kJ/mol. ✤ The value of electronegativity is 1.57 on the Pauling scale.
Beryllium has a wide range of applications because of the unique properties it possesses.
It is commonly used as an alloying agent, for producing age-hardening alloys with copper and nickel. Beryllium copper is an important alloy of this element, containing up to 2.5% of beryllium, used in the manufacture of springs, electrical contacts, non-sparking and spot welding tools.
The lightweight and dimensional stability of this element makes it useful for producing various lightweight structural components in defense and aerospace industries.
It is used in high speed aircraft, space vehicles, missiles and communicated satellites. It is also used in computer parts, gyroscopes and other instruments, where lightness and stiffness are required.
Beryllium has a very low absorption of X-rays. This property of low absorption is beneficial for use in radiation windows for X-ray tubes. Ultra-thin foils are used in X-ray lithography, for making integrated circuits.
Naval mines have fuses that detonate on direct magnetic contact or in the presence of a magnetic field. Beryllium tools are often used by naval personnel, when working on or near naval mines, as it is non-magnetic in nature.
Since it has a low thermal neutron absorption, which is why, it is commonly used as a reflector or moderator in nuclear reactors. It is mixed with an alpha emitter such as polonium 210, radium 226 or actinium 227, and used in neutron sources. It is also used in the pipes of various high energy particle physics experiments, such as the Large Hadron Collider.
The oxide of this chemical element is an excellent heat conductor as well as a good electrical insulator. It is often used as an insulator base plate, in high power transistors for telecommunication purposes.
It is also used in ceramics and nuclear applications as it has a very high melting point. Research is going on to find the use of beryllium oxide in increasing the thermal conductivity of uranium dioxide nuclear fuel pellets.
Being low in weight with high rigidity and stiffness, this element is useful as a material for high frequency speaker drivers.
This element can be worked on by a machine and is used as a material in some vacuum chambers. This element finds its uses in cogwheels or gears which are used in the aviation industry.
Large area beryllium mirrors, with a honeycomb support structure, are often used in meteorological satellites. Smaller mirrors find use in optical guidance systems and fire control systems.
Emerald, a naturally occurring compound of beryllium, is used as a precious gem in jewelry.
Beryllium and its compounds are toxic as well as carcinogenic. Inhaling the fumes or dust of this element can lead to an ailment called berylliosis' Therefore, one should take all the necessary precautions while handling them.