Production of Beryllium

Nov 24,2021

Beryllium (Be), formerly (until 1957) glucinium, chemical element, the lightest member of the alkaline-earth metals of Group 2 (IIa) of the periodic table, used in metallurgy as a hardening agent and in many outer space and nuclear applications.

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Physical properties

Beryllium is a steel gray and hard metal that is brittle at room temperature and has a close-packed hexagonal crystal structure.It has exceptional stiffness (Young's modulus 287 GPa) and a melting point of 1287 °C. The modulus of elasticity of beryllium is approximately 50% greater than that of steel. The combination of this modulus and a relatively low density results in an unusually fast sound conduction speed in beryllium – about 12.9 km/s at ambient conditions. Other significant properties are high specific heat (1925 J·kg−1·K−1) and thermal conductivity (216 W·m−1·K−1), which make beryllium the metal with the best heat dissipation characteristics per unit weight. In combination with the relatively low coefficient of linear thermal expansion (11.4×10−6 K−1), these characteristics result in a unique stability under conditions of thermal loading.

Compounds

Beryllium has an exclusive +2 oxidation state in all of its compounds. They are generally colourless and have a distinctly sweet taste, whence came the element’s former name glucinium. Both the finely divided metal and soluble compounds in the form of solutions, dry dust, or fumes are toxic; they may produce dermatitis or, when inhaled, a hypersensitivity to beryllium. Among people who work with beryllium, exposure can lead to berylliosis (also called chronic beryllium disease [CBD]), characterized by decreased lung capacity and effects similar to those caused by the poison gas phosgene.

Production

The extraction of beryllium from its compounds is a difficult process due to its high affinity for oxygen at elevated temperatures, and its ability to reduce water when its oxide film is removed. Currently the United States, China and Kazakhstan are the only three countries involved in the industrial-scale extraction of beryllium.Kazakhstan produces beryllium from a concentrate stockpiled before the breakup of the Soviet Union around 1991. This resource has become nearly depleted by mid-2010s.

Production of beryllium in Russia was halted in 1997, and is planned to be resumed in the 2020s.

Beryllium is most commonly extracted from the mineral beryl, which is either sintered using an extraction agent or melted into a soluble mixture. The sintering process involves mixing beryl with sodium fluorosilicate and soda at 770 °C (1,420 °F) to form sodium fluoroberyllate, aluminium oxide and silicon dioxide.Beryllium hydroxide is precipitated from a solution of sodium fluoroberyllate and sodium hydroxide in water. Extraction of beryllium using the melt method involves grinding beryl into a powder and heating it to 1,650 °C (3,000 °F).The melt is quickly cooled with water and then reheated 250 to 300 °C (482 to 572 °F) in concentrated sulfuric acid, mostly yielding beryllium sulfate and aluminium sulfate.Aqueous ammonia is then used to remove the aluminium and sulfur, leaving beryllium hydroxide.

Beryllium hydroxide created using either the sinter or melt method is then converted into beryllium fluoride or beryllium chloride. To form the fluoride, aqueous ammonium hydrogen fluoride is added to beryllium hydroxide to yield a precipitate of ammonium tetrafluoroberyllate, which is heated to 1,000 °C (1,830 °F) to form beryllium fluoride.Heating the fluoride to 900 °C (1,650 °F) with magnesium forms finely divided beryllium, and additional heating to 1,300 °C (2,370 °F) creates the compact metal.[6] Heating beryllium hydroxide forms the oxide, which becomes beryllium chloride when combined with carbon and chlorine. Electrolysis of molten beryllium chloride is then used to obtain the metal.

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