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What is Beryllium?

Neel Solanki, Danielle Reid
  • Author
    Neel Solanki

    Neel Solanki a Bachelors degree in Biology and a Bachelors degree in Horticulture from Iowa State University. They have also served as a co-instructor for a college course and have over 3 years of experience as a scientific researcher.

  • Instructor
    Danielle Reid

    Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Explore the beryllium element: Learn about who discovered beryllium, beryllium's uses, beryllium toxicity, and beryllium on the periodic table. Updated: 12/15/2021

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Beryllium Element

What is beryllium? Beryllium is a chemical element represented on the periodic table of elements by the symbol Be. Beryllium may also be defined as the chemical element with an atomic number of 4.

Atomic number refers to the number of protons in the nucleus of a single atom of an element. Protons are one of the three types of subatomic particles, the other types being neutrons and electrons. Beryllium atoms are also found to possess 4 electrons and 5 neutrons in their atoms. The atomic mass of this element (i.e., the total number of protons and neutrons) is 9.

The following sections will describe the key properties and uses of this element, as well as explore some beryllium facts in greater detail.

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  • 0:01 Historical Roots
  • 0:50 Elemental Characteristics
  • 1:28 Fascinating Facts
  • 2:29 Various Uses
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Beryllium on the Periodic Table

What group is beryllium in? Beryllium is located in period 2 of group 2 on the periodic table of elements. Group 2 elements are also known as the alkaline earth metal group of elements. This group of elements is characterized by their physical properties of being soft, silvery metals, and chemical properties of containing two valence electrons with an oxidation state of +2.

Other elements that belong to the alkaline earth metals group include magnesium (Mg, atomic number 12), calcium (Ca, atomic number 20), strontium (Sr, atomic number 38), barium (Ba, atomic number 56), and radium (Ra, atomic number 88).

Berillium is represented by the smybol, Be, on the periodic table

Beryllium Periodic table

Beryllium Discovery

Who discovered beryllium and when was this element discovered? Beryllium was discovered by a French chemist named Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin in the year 1798. Vauquelin discovered this element in the minerals beryl and emerald, which are well known for their use as gemstones since ancient times.

The first successful isolation of this element would only occur a few decades later in the year 1828 by German chemist Friedrich Wohler and French chemist Antoine A.B. Bussy. These scientists were able to extract pure beryllium from the compound beryllium chloride, by performing a reduction reaction using the element potassium.

When Vauquelin first discovered this element, he proposed the name 'glaucinium', which was derived from the greek word "glykys" (meaning sweet). This name was given in reference to the sweet taste of some beryllium compounds. However, many in the scientific community preferred the name beryllium, after the mineral the element was discovered in (beryl).

Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin first discovered beryllium in the year 1798

Beryllium facts

Beryllium Characteristics

The key characteristics of Beryllium can be divided into three categories:

  • Atomic characteristics
  • Physical characteristics
  • Chemical characteristics

Atomic characteristics

The atomic characteristics of Beryllium include:

  • Atomic Number: 4
  • Atomic Mass: 9.012
  • Valency (Oxidation States): +2
  • Common Isotopes: Beryllium-9 is the only naturally occurring isotope. However, 11 other isotopes (with atomic masses from 5-16) are known to exist.

Physical characteristics

The physical characteristics of beryllium are described based on pure beryllium at standard conditions:

  • Beryllium has a melting point of 1287 degrees Celsius and a boiling point of 2469 degrees Celsius.
  • The density of beryllium is 1.85 grams per cubic centimeter. It is considered one of the lightest metal elements because of its low density.
  • Is beryllium a metal? Yes, pure beryllium is a steel-grey, lustrous substance that occurs in the solid state at room temperature and pressure.
  • Beryllium is a good conductor of electricity. It is also a thermal conductor and has the ability to transfer heat from hot to cold objects.
  • Beryllium is an odorless compound. Its compounds are said to have a distinct sweet taste. However, beryllium and its compounds are highly toxic to humans and should not be ingested.

Beryllium is a steel-grey, lustrous metal element

Beryllium element

Chemical characteristics

Some important chemical reactions that beryllium undergoes include the following:

  • Reacts slowly with exposure to air to form a tarnish of beryllium oxide on its surface.
  • Due to the presence of an oxide layer on its surface, beryllium does not generally react with water even when heated.
  • Burning of pure beryllium results in a bright flame and forms the oxide and nitride compounds of the element.
  • Dissolves in most acids, except HNO3 (nitric acid)

Beryllium Uses

What is beryllium used for? The following details the major industrial uses of beryllium:

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is beryllium be a metal or nonmetal?

Beryllium is a metal element that is found in group 2 of the periodic table. Group 2 of the periodic table includes the alkaline earth metal elements.

What are chemical properties of beryllium?

The key chemical properties of beryllium include its ability to readily form oxides when exposed to air. The thin oxide layer prevents further tarnishing of beryllium metal in air. Beryllium also reacts with most acids except nitric acid.

What is the element beryllium used for?

Key beryllium uses include:

  • Beryllium is naturally found in some gemstones
  • Beryllium alloys can be used to make aircraft, spaceships, gyroscopes and other items
  • Beryllium is used in X-ray lithography and in nuclear reactors.

Where do you find beryllium?

Beryllium is found in period 2 of group 2 of the periodic table. In nature, it can be found in over 100 different types of minerals and gemstones.

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