50 Incredible Beryllium Facts You Should Know

Sitting at the fourth position on the Periodic Table, Beryllium has quite an interesting history. Did you know that there are some countries where Beryllium is not referred to by the name Beryllium?

In those countries, they call the element Glucinum or Glucinium. Well, there are many more interesting facts like that.

So, without further ado, let us learn 50 interesting Beryllium facts that you might need for your school project. But before we start…

Element NameBeryllium
Element SymbolBe
Element FamilyAlkaline Earth
ColorSteel Gray
StateSolid
Atomic Weight (Atom’s Average Mass)9.012182(3)
Melting Point1278°C or, 2348.6°F or, 1551.2 K
Boiling Point2469°C or, 4479.8°F or, 2742 K
Density at 20°C1.848 grams/cm3
Number of Electrons4
Number of Protons4
Number of Neutrons (In the Isotope Found Most Abundantly)5
Electronic Configuration1s22s2
Most Stable Isotope9Be: Natural Abundance – 100%
Element StructureHexagonal Close Packed (hcp)
Atomic Radius112 pm (picometer)
Hardness5.5 Mohs

Isotopes of Beryllium

Isotope NameType and AbundanceHalf-Life
5BeRadioactiveNo Data Available
6BeRadioactive5.0 * 10-21 s
7BeRadioactive53.24 d
8BeRadioactive8.181 * 10-17 s
9BeStable and 100%Stable so no Half Life
10BeRadioactive1.387 * 10-6 y
11BeRadioactive13.81 s
12BeRadioactive21.49 ms
13BeRadioactive2.7 * 10-21 s
14BeRadioactive4.35 ms
15BeRadioactive200 ns
16BeRadioactive200 ns

References:

ns: nanoseconds

ms: milliseconds

s: seconds

d: days

y: years

Beryllium Facts: 1-5 

1. Beryllium was actually known to ancient worlds but in the form of Emerald and Beryl (a gemstone). Even the ancient Egyptians knew about them.

2. The word “Beryllium” had many early precursors in various languages. Some of those precursors in different languages are provided in the table below:

LanguageWord(s)
Latin Berylus
FrenchBery
Greek Berullos, Beryl
PrakritVeruliya
PaliVilar, Veluriya, Veliru

3. As far as the original source of the word “Beryllium” is concerned, it is believed to have originated from a Sanskrit word called “Vaidurya”. This Sanskrit word in turn finds its origin in South Indian language and can be related to Velur – a modern city in India.

4. In 1789, René Haüy of France found that both Emerald and Beryl had similarities when it came to properties and structure despite the fact that two had different colors.

5. This stunning discovery left René Haüy wondering whether the two were made of the same element. To find the answer to this question, René Haüy went to Nicolas Louis Vauquelin, who was a French chemist with specialization in analyzing.

Beryllium Facts: 6-10

6. Upon analyzing both Beryl and Emerald, Vauquelin made a weird discovery. He found that both the gemstones had a new substance with a sweet taste. The substance that Vauquelin tasted was ‘Beryllia’ (this is the name that is known to us today), which is basically an oxide of Beryllium and is represented by the formula BeO.

7. This discovery led Vauquelin to propose that Beryllia was made up of an element that was previously not discovered. He said that it was an earth metal and eventually ended up naming this unknown metal as ‘Earth of Beryl’.

8. Guess what? People (scientists in specific) have quite a bit of fascination for Greek words. It is this bias that eventually led a different name for the undiscovered element. A new name was adopted and element was called “Glyceynum”. The name was again changed to “Glucina or Glucine”.

9. Wondering where Greek comes into play? Well, those names were adopted because of the sweet taste of the salts of the unknown metal. The Greek word for sweet is ‘Glykis’ and hence the names. In case you didn’t know, here is a bonus fact – the word ‘Glucose’ is also derived for ‘Glykis’.

10. During all this time, the element was actually not discovered and yet, different names were given. The actual discovery eventually took place in 1828 by two different people independently.

Beryllium Facts: 11-15

11. The two people who discovered Beryllium or better said, isolated the element independently in the same year were:

  • Germany’s Friederich Wöhler
  • France’s Antoine Bussy

12. Both the people used the very same method for isolating Beryllium. Both of them used Beryllium Chloride and reacted it with Potassium. Both of them used Platinum crucible for the reaction.

13. The reaction yielded Potassium Chloride and Beryllium, thus leading to the discovery of the unknown element that Vauquelin guessed.

14. Friederich Wöhler from Germany was not particularly happy about the name that was already given to the element. He wanted it to be named as ‘Beryllium’ derived from the Greek (yes, Greek) word ‘Beryllos’, which actually meant ‘mineral Beryl’.

15. Antoine Bussy from France, on the other hand however, wanted the new element to be called ‘Glucinium’.

Beryllium Facts: 16-20

16. In the fight between ‘Beryllium’ and ‘Glucinium’, a third person stepped in. The third person was Martin Klaproth, who was also from Germany.

17. Klaproth pointed out a very important thing: “In 1801, it was found that the element ‘Yttria’ is also known for forming salts that are sweet in taste”. So, Klaproth argued that if a name that is derived from ‘Beryllos’ is used instead of a name derived from ‘Glykis’, there will be no confusion.

18. Klaproth was really intelligent, but he didn’t stop at that argument only. He also pointed out that there was a particular genus of plants that was already known by the name ‘Glucine’.

19. It was not until 1949 that Wöhler’s suggestion, fortified by Klaproth’s argument won the battle and IUPAC decided to use the name ‘Beryllium’.

20. Despite the fact that ‘Beryllium’ was chosen over Bussy’s ‘Glucinium’ in 1949, the name ‘Beryllium’ only became official in 1957.

Beryllium Facts: 21-25

21. Though Beryllium is a relatively soft metal, it is actually hard and at room temperature, it is a brittle element.

22. Of all alkaline earth metals known to us, Beryllium is the lightest of all.

23. The metal sits on the 4th place on the periodic table, but when it comes to abundance on Earth, it takes the 44th

24. Compared to steel’s specific stiffness, Beryllium’s specific stiffness is 6x more!

25. If we compare the density of Beryllium with Aluminum, Beryllium is less dense (only 2/3rd of that of Aluminum).

Beryllium Facts: 26-30

26. Thermal conductivity of Beryllium is extremely high. When this metal is exposed to concentrated Nitric Acid, nothing happens. This means that it is immune to attacks of this acid.

27. Beryllium is not at all magnetic. It is because of this property that radar systems and radios are fine-tuned using this metal.

28. The reason why Beryllium is resistant to concentrated nitric acid is that when left in air, Beryllium reacts with air forming a thin film of BeO – a hard oxide of the metal – on the metal’s surface. It is this BeO that prevents the corrosion.

29. Beryllium is widely used in nuclear reactors as moderator, neutron absorber, shield and reflector.

30. In order to make spark-proof tools, an alloy of Copper and Beryllium is used.

Beryllium Facts: 31-35

31. Because of its relative transparency to X-Rays, Beryllium is used as foils on X-Ray emitter windows.

32. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has said that Beryllium is carcinogenic and that prolonged exposure to this element can lead to lung cancer. This means that those people who are involved in Beryllium mining are in greater danger.

33. This element is very toxic, and hence, one should not try to taste this element. However, if you are inclined on knowing how it actually tastes then, it has a ‘sweet’ taste. This was found by the person who discovered the element.

34. The mirrors that are used in James Webb Telescope of NASA actually have Beryllium as the main ingredient.

35. James Chadwick used alpha particles for bombarding Beryllium and in the process, discovered Neutrons. He noticed that subatomic particles were released when alpha particles bombarded the element. These subatomic particles were electrically neutral!

Beryllium Facts: 36-40

36. Beryllium Science & Technology Association says that cellphones, cameras and other portable devices that we use on a regular basis use materials that contain Beryllium.

37. European Commission has a list of critical raw materials. The list contains 20 materials and Beryllium is one of them.

38. The US Geological Survey says that Beryllium is considered as a critical and strategic material by the US Department of Defense. The reason is that products that the Defense Department considers important for US National Security contain Beryllium.

39. The Beryllium Science & Technology Association says that those equipment that are used for HIV and other diseases’ blood tests have parts that are made of beryllium.

40. Kazakhstan, America and China are the only three countries in this world that produce Beryllium on industrial scale.

Beryllium Facts: 41-45 

41. Beryllium played a major role in proving that neutrons do exist. James Chadwick – an English physicist was running an experiment in 1932. In his experiment, he used a small sample of Beryllium and then bombarded it with Helium nuclei (alpha-rays).

42. In this experiment Chadwick found that Beryllium emitted subatomic particles. These particles had no charge but had mass. These neutral particles that showed up were actually neutrons.

43. When Beryllium is bombarded with 1 million alpha particles (Helium nuclei), it produces 30 million neutrons!

44. During WWII, the production of Beryllium increased significantly. This reason for this was that there was a very high demand for Phosphorus and Beryllium-Copper alloys that were heavily used for fluorescent lights.

45. Did you know that pure Beryllium has a steel-grey color and is very light. Among the light metals known to us, Beryllium has one of the highest melting points.

Beryllium Facts: 46-50

46. The mineral Beryl can be found in various precious forms including emerald, morganite and aquamarine.

47. The isotope of Beryllium – 10Be has a half-life of 1.51 million years. It is known as Cosmogenic isotope because it is produced only in the atmosphere when the elements Nitrogen and Oxygen are bombarded with cosmic rays.

48. Did you know that the human body contains approximately 35 micrograms of Beryllium. That quantity is not harmful to us.

49. Because of its chemical similarity to Magnesium, Beryllium is capable of displacing Magnesium from enzymes, leading to enzyme malfunction. The Beryllium ion Be2+ is highly charged and so small that it can easily get inside various cells and tissues and target cell nuclei and inhibit enzymes. Even those enzymes are targeted that are essential for synthesis of DNA.

50. Human body is not capable of controlling Beryllium levels. There is no mechanism present in our body. It is because of this, once Beryllium enters our body, there is no way of removing it!

This ends our list of Beryllium fun facts. In case you know a few more, consider dropping them in the comments section. We will happily include them in our article. Only condition – provide the source you referred to.

Sources…

Wikipedia

Jefferson Lab Resources

Jefferson Lab Resources

Royal Society of Chemistry

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