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Beryllium is a chemical element with the symbol Be and atomic number 4

Beryllium be4

Beryllium is a chemical element with the symbol Be and atomic number 4

Beryllium is a chemical element with the symbol Be and atomic number 4

In the periodic table, Beryllium the first representative of the alkaline earth metals. The name beryllium comes from the Greek βήρυλλος (beryllos) which designated aquamarine or emerald.

A bivalent element, beryllium is an alkaline earth metal with a steel gray appearance. It is light, fragile and toxic.

It was discovered as a component of the mineral beryl by Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin as early as 1798 and was initially called glucine because of the sweet taste of the isolated beryllium-containing compounds (e.g. hydroxide). Elemental beryllium was first produced in 1828 by Friedrich Wöhler and independently of that by Antoine Bussy.


Toxicity and Health Issues of Beryllium

Presentation – Ecotoxicology

Beryllium is a very toxic, non-radioactive metal. It is classified among the most toxic elements like arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), lead (Pb), thallium (Tl) and mercury (Hg). Beryllium acts as a carcinogenic poison, affecting cell membranes and binding to certain regulatory proteins in cells. Beryllium may remain detectable in urine for up to 10 years after exposure. It is classified as a category 1 carcinogen by the European Union and is therefore in France subject to the CMR 2001-97 decree of February 1, 2001 (which applies to any exposure to beryllium).

Beryllium is ecotoxic (and in particular carcinogenic). It is the smallest of the metal cations. And if it seems relatively little mobile in water with neutral or alkaline pH, it is on the other hand in soils or environments that are naturally acidic (frequent in a large part of the world) or made acidic by humans.

The low natural abundance of beryllium (3 × 10-4%) means that it does not pose any particular environmental problem, but it can be concentrated in coals and in granite rocks such as pegmatites in the form of several minerals: bertrandite, beryl … It then circulates with bioavailability and a still poorly evaluated propensity to concentrate in certain organs or in certain species23,24. The thermal uses of coal injected a significant quantity of it into the atmosphere, the fallout of which enriched the environments around industrial and urban sites using coal (often associated with acid rain, especially for coals with a high sulfur content) .

There are controversies over its use in dentistry in dentures.

Detection of beryllium in the human body at very high doses is always associated with harmful effects (of varying severity). Beryllium is:

This results in health effects, which are classified into several categories:

Non-carcinogenic effects

The inhalation of “large” concentrations of beryllium (more than 1 mg per cubic meter of air), or prolonged inhalation (more than ten years) even of low doses, can cause a disease called chronic disease of the body. beryllium or beryllium (or CBD for Chronic Beryllium Disease). This disease affects the lungs, has many points in common with pneumonia, and can progress to severe cardiorespiratory failure.

Animal model: While ingestion of beryllium by the human body has not shown direct and harmful effects on the stomach and intestine, ingestion of beryllium by animals results in the presence of lesions in the these organs.

Sensitization: Some people become hypersensitive to beryllium (they develop an allergic reaction to this element). In a few people, direct exposure to beryllium (skin contact) has caused skin damage with or without granulomatosis and respiratory tract inflammation.

Carcinogenic effects

Several studies have been done on the increase in the number of deaths from lung cancer among people employed in factories using beryllium.

Read also: Why Do Many People Get Cancer?

Sources of contamination of the human body

The contamination of the human body by beryllium occurs mainly by 4 ways:

1. By inhalation of air containing beryllium particles (dust, fumes, vapors, nanoparticles from abrasion).
2. By ingestion of contaminated food and drinking water.
3. Following the corrosion of the beryllium alloys present in the mouth.
4. By skin and transcutaneous contamination, very sensitizing “The contribution of skin absorption is increasingly suspected in the development of sensitization”.

Air contamination

Beryllium can be very harmful when inhaled. In fact, there is a great correlation between the level of beryllium in human urine and that in the air, which proves that the contamination in the human body is not only due to water pollution but also to the atmosphere.

Contamination by drinking water

It can be found in natural waters and industrial effluents in trace amounts. In general, the concentration of beryllium in natural water and wastewater varies between 0.1 and 500 μg / L, but when this concentration exceeds 0.2 μg / L, we begin to speak of an environmental problem.

Contamination by dentures

In contact with saliva, any alloy containing beryllium corrodes and releases ions which diffuse into the surrounding tissues and are partly ingested. Corrosion is all the stronger with these alloys as beryllium, a very reactive metal, reacts in the presence of any other metal. Chronic intoxication which results from the permanent diffusion of beryllium ions in the body is a factor of dysregulation of the immune system, in particular in people allergic (or sensitized to beryllium following prolonged contact).

Dentists (milling) and dental prosthetists are also exposed to it through their work (in 1990, 50% of dental prosthetists used a beryllium alloy).

Notable features

Beryllium has the highest melting point of all light metals. It is fragile, but lighter and six times stronger than aluminum. Its ductility is approximately a third greater than that of steel.

It has excellent thermal conductivity, is non-magnetic and is resistant to concentrated nitric acid. It is highly permeable to X-rays, and releases neutrons when struck by alpha particles, such as those emitted by radium or polonium.

Under normal temperature and pressure conditions, beryllium is resistant to oxidation when exposed to air. A thin layer of oxide forms which gives it its ability to scratch glass.

In nature, it is mainly found in the form of complex oxides or aluminosilicates called beryls, the best-known valuable representatives of which are emerald and aquamarine.

It is exploited from around thirty ores (especially bertrandite and beryl). The world’s main mines are in the United States, China and Mozambique. None are open in Europe.

Beryllium in the periodic table

Atomic number (Z) 4
Group group 2 (alkaline earth metals)
Period period 2
Block   s-block
Electron configuration [He] 2s2
Electrons per shell 2, 2

Physical properties

Physical properties
Phase at STP solid
Melting point 1560 K ​(1287 °C, ​2349 °F)
Boiling point 2742 K ​(2469 °C, ​4476 °F)
Density (near r.t.) 1.85 g/cm3
when liquid (at m.p.) 1.690 g/cm3
Critical point 5205 K,  MPa (extrapolated)
Heat of fusion 12.2 kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization 292 kJ/mol
Molar heat capacity 16.443 J/(mol·K)

Vapor pressure

P (Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T (K) 1462 1608 1791 2023 2327 2742

Atomic properties

Atomic properties
Oxidation states 0, +1, +2 (an amphoteric oxide)
Electronegativity Pauling scale: 1.57
Ionization energies
  • 1st: 899.5 kJ/mol
  • 2nd: 1757.1 kJ/mol
  • 3rd: 14,848.7 kJ/mol
  • (more)
Atomic radius empirical: 112 pm
Covalent radius 96±3 pm
Van der Waals radius 153 pm

Other properties

Other properties
Natural occurrence primordial
Crystal structure ​hexagonal close-packed (hcp)
Speed of sound thin rod 12,890 m/s (at r.t.)[4]
Thermal expansion 11.3 µm/(m·K) (at 25 °C)
Thermal conductivity 200 W/(m·K)
Electrical resistivity 36 nΩ·m (at 20 °C)
Magnetic ordering diamagnetic
Magnetic susceptibility −9.0·10−6 cm3/mol
Young’s modulus 287 GPa
Shear modulus 132 GPa
Bulk modulus 130 GPa
Poisson ratio 0.032
Mohs hardness 5.5
Vickers hardness 1670 MPa
Brinell hardness 590–1320 MPa
CAS Number 7440-41-7


Discovery Louis Nicolas Vauquelin (1798)
First isolation Friedrich Wöhler & Antoine Bussy (1828)

Main isotopes of beryllium

Beryllium has 12 known isotopes, with a mass number varying between 5 and 16. Only 9Be is stable and represents almost all of natural beryllium. Two of the radioisotopes of beryllium have been detected in nature:  10Be with a half-life of 1.39 million years, and 7Be with a half-life of 53.22 days; both are cosmogenic nuclides created by the interaction of cosmic rays with the nuclei of atoms in the air. The other radioisotopes have very short half-lives and are only detectable in the instruments that were used to create them artificially.

Main isotopes of beryllium
Iso­tope Abun­dance Half-life (t1/2) Decay mode Pro­duct
7Be trace 53.12 d ε 7Li
9Be 100% stable
10Be trace 1.39×106 y β 10B

Periodic Table of Elements | Complete List of Chemical Elements by Group, Name, Symbol, Color and Type

Periodic Table of Elements | Complete List of Chemical Elements by Group, Name, Symbol, Color and Type

Information: Cleverly Smart is not a substitute for a doctor. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.

Sources: PinterPandai, Researchgate, CDC, Merck KGaA

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Photo explanations: Beryllium, >99 % pure, crystalline big fragment >140 g.

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