What is beryllium?


The element known as beryllium is the lightest member of the alkaline earth metal family . These metals make up Group 2 of the periodic table of elements. Elements in the same column of the periodic table have similar chemical properties.


  • Symbol : Be
  • Atomic number : 4
  • Group: alkaline earth metals

What is beryllium?

It is a chemical element that is represented by the symbol Be and whose atomic number is 4. It is an alkaline earth element, gray, hard, brittle, light and toxic used as a hardener for alloys, especially copper.

  • Beryllium characteristics
  • History
  • Who discovered it
  • Properties
  • What is beryllium for?
  • Where is it located
  • Importance of beryllium

Beryllium characteristics

The most representative characteristics of beryllium are the following:

  • It is never found as a free element, it can only be found as a compound .
  • It has the chemical formula Be3 .
  • Its original name was “glucinium” and it meant ” sweet taste “ , since the element and some of its compounds taste sweet.
  • The main producer of beryl in the world is the United States .
  • The only mine currently producing beryl is located in Delta, Utah.
  • It can also be obtained from mines in places like China , Russia and Brazil .
  • It is relatively common in the earth’s crust . Its abundance is estimated at 2 to 10 parts per million.
  • It is a very toxic metal, especially when it is in powder form . The effects of inhaling beryllium dust can be acute or chronic . Acute effects are those that occur rapidly as a result of large exposures. Chronic effects are those that occur over very long periods of time as a result of much smaller exposures.
  • The acute effects of inhaling beryllium dust include pneumonia- like symptoms that can cause death in a short time.
  • Chronic effects include diseases of the respiratory system such as bronchitis and lung cancer .


A common beryllium compound was already known in ancient Egypt , but nothing was known about the chemical composition of this mineral until the late 18th century. In 1797, the French mineralogist René-Just Haüy carried out a series of studies on beryl and emerald . Emerald is a green gemstone of natural origin. Haüy was convinced that these two minerals were almost identical so he asked  Vauquelin to determine the chemical composition of the two minerals.

When Vauquelin did his chemical analysis, he found a new material that had been overlooked because it looks so much like aluminum. His data showed that the material was not aluminum and he named the new element glucinium . Scientists referred to the element by two different names, beryllium and glucinium, for 160 years.

Who discovered it

Then, beryllium was discovered by the French chemist Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin in the years between 1763 and 1829. Vauquelin initially suggested the name glucinium , which means ” sweet taste “, for the element because the element and some of its compounds have a sweet taste. Some time later, the name beryllium was officially adopted in 1957.


Beryllium has a large number of physical and chemical properties that we will mention below.

  • It is a metal hard and brittle with a surface greyish .
  • It is the least lightest metal that can be used in the construction area .
  • Its melting point is 1,287 ° and its boiling point is estimated at around 2,500 ° C.
  • Its density is 1.8 grams per cubic centimeter.
  • Metal has a high capacity to store heat and thermal conductivity .
  • It is completely transparent to X-rays . X-rays pass through metal without being absorbed. It is for this reason that it is sometimes used to make windows for X-ray machines.
  • Reacts with acids and water to form hydrogen gas .
  • It reacts briefly with oxygen in the air to form beryllium oxide .
  • Beryllium oxide forms a thin layer on the metal surface that prevents the metal from reacting further with oxygen.

What is beryllium for?

Its main use is in alloys . Beryllium alloys are popular because they are hard , rigid, and are known to be lighter than similar alloys.

Alloys have the ability to conduct heat and electricity almost as well as pure copper, but they are stronger, harder, and more resistant to wear and tear and to corrosion or oxidation . These alloys are used in printed circuits, radars, computers, home appliances, aerospace applications, automatic systems in factories, automobiles, aircraft landing systems, oil and gas drilling equipment, and heavy machinery.

Where is it located

Beryllium can be found in 30 different minerals . Among the most important we can mention  beryl and bertrandite , which are considered the main sources of commercial beryllium. Currently, most of the metal is obtained by reduction of fluoride of beryllium with magnesium . The precious forms of beryl can be found in the form of aquamarine and emerald .

Geographically, the largest reserves are in the United States, which is considered the world leader in beryllium production (65%), followed by Russia (40%) and China (15%).

Importance of beryllium

Beryllium is of great importance for the industry, since its use in medical diagnoses by means of X-rays, is a necessary technology for the treatment of some diseases. It is also very important in copper alloys that have a large number of applications for the creation of tools dedicated to the oil industry . It is also used in aircraft and precision instruments . In addition, it acts as a moderator for neutrons in nuclear reactors.

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