Beryllium is a silver-white relatively hard but brittle metal. It is light (1.5 times lighter than aluminium) however it is strong (stronger than steel) and heat resistant (can withstand heat up to 700-800 Degrees Celsius). Beryllium is rare mineral, with an average concentration in the earth’s crust of about 4ppm (parts per million e.g. there are 6mg of the minerals per kg of rock). In contrast to other rare metals, it is mostly concentrated in the form of its own minerals among which beryl, phenacite and bertrandite are of commercial importance. The main beryllium raw material is bertrandite ore.

French chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin, who had discovered beryllium, suggested calling it “glucinum” (from Greek glycos- sweet) due to the sweet taste of its salts.

Uses of Beryllium in our daily life

Beryllium weakly absorbs X-rays, thus it is used for manufacturing X-ray tube windows where the X-rays come out and wide-range gamma ray detectors, through which radiation enters the detector. It is also readily found in objects such as the jewellery we wear, needles for injections, springs for Swiss watches (an alloy of nickel, beryllium and tungsten) and ball point pens.

Beryllium is also a material for manufacturing heat shields and gyroscopic devices for guidance and orientation systems in high-speed aircrafts, space vihicles, submarines and surface vessels.A special grade of metal with extremly high reflectivity was developed for space and optical mirrors.

Copyright: ESA/NASA