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(bərĭl`ēəm) [from beryl ], metallic chemical element; symbol Be; at. no. 4; at. wt. 9.01218; m.p. about 1,278°C;; b.p. 2,970°C; (estimated); sp. gr. 1.85 at 20°C;; valence +2. Beryllium is a strong, extremely light, high-melting, silver-gray metal with a close-packed hexagonal crystalline structure. It is an alkaline-earth metalalkaline-earth metals,
metals constituting Group 2 of the periodic table. Generally, they are softer than most other metals, react readily with water (especially when heated), and are powerful reducing agents, but they are exceeded in each of these properties by the
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 in Group 2 of the periodic tableperiodic table,
chart of the elements arranged according to the periodic law discovered by Dmitri I. Mendeleev and revised by Henry G. J. Moseley. In the periodic table the elements are arranged in columns and rows according to increasing atomic number (see the table entitled
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. Beryllium is resistant to corrosion; weight for weight, it is stronger than steel, and because of its low density (about 1/3 that of aluminum) it has found extensive use in the aerospace industry.

Beryllium is soluble in hot nitric acid, dilute hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, and sodium hydroxide. Like aluminum and magnesium, which it resembles chemically, it readily forms compounds with other elements; it is not found free in nature. However, like aluminum, it is resistant to oxidation in air, even at a red heat; it is thought to form a protective oxide film that prevents further oxidation. The compounds of beryllium are sweet-tasting and highly toxic; this toxicity has limited the use of beryllium as a rocket fuel, even though it yields more heat on combustion for its weight than any other element.

Beryllium transmits X rays much better than glass or other metals; this property, together with its high melting point, makes it desirable as a window material for high-intensity X-ray tubes. Because beryllium resists attack by liquid sodium metal, it is employed in cooling systems of nuclear reactors that use liquid sodium as the heat-transfer material; because it is a good reflector and absorber of neutrons, it is also used as a shield and as a moderator in nuclear reactors.

The addition of 2% to 3% of beryllium to copper makes a nonmagnetic alloy six times stronger than pure copper. This alloy is used to make nonsparking tools for use in oil refineries and other places where sparks constitute a fire hazard; it is also used for small mechanical parts, such as camera shutters. When beryllium is alloyed with other metals such as aluminum or gold it yields substances with a higher melting point, greater hardness and strength, and lower density than the metal with which it is alloyed.

Beryllium aluminum silicates, especially berylberyl
, mineral, a silicate of beryllium and aluminum, Be3Al2Si6O18, extremely hard, occurring in hexagonal crystals that may be of enormous size and are usually white, yellow, green, blue, or colorless.
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 (of which emeraldemerald,
the green variety of beryl, of which aquamarine is the blue variety. Chemically, it is a beryllium-aluminum silicate whose color is due to small quantities of chromium compounds.
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 and aquamarineaquamarine
[Lat.,=seawater], transparent beryl with a blue or bluish-green color. Sources of the gems include Brazil, Siberia, the Union of Myanmar, Madagascar, and parts of the United States. Oriental aquamarine is a transparent crystalline corundum with a bluish tinge.
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 are varieties), constitute the chief sources of the metal. Although its ores occur widely in North America, Europe, and Africa, the cost of extracting the metal limits its commercial use. Beryllium may be prepared by electrolysis of its fused salts; it is prepared commercially by reduction of the fluoride with magnesium metal.

Beryllium was discovered in 1798 as the oxide beryllia by L. N. Vauquelin, a French chemist. Vauquelin analyzed beryl and emerald at the urging of R. J. Haüy, a French mineralogist, who had noted that their optical properties were identical. Beryllium was first isolated in 1828 independently by F. Wöhler in Germany and W. Bussy in France by fusing beryllium chloride with metallic potassium.

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A chemical element, symbol Be, atomic number 4, atomic weight 9.0122.
A rare metal, occurring naturally in combinations, with density about one-third of aluminum; used most commonly in the manufacture of beryllium-copper alloys which find numerous industrial and scientific applications.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a corrosion-resistant toxic silvery-white metallic element that occurs chiefly in beryl and is used mainly in X-ray windows and in the manufacture of alloys. Symbol: Be; atomic no.: 4; atomic wt.: 9.012; valency: 2; relative density: 1.848; melting pt.: 1289°C; boiling pt.: 2472°C
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005