Where Found (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Bismuth is a rare element in the Earth’s crust, with an abundance roughly equal to that of silver. It is also one of the few metallic elements that can be found in nature in its elemental form. As such it is often found in the same areas as lead, zinc, or tin deposits in locations such as Bolivia, Canada, and Germany. In addition, it occurs in ores as an oxide, sulfide, or carbonate. Rather than being mined and refined directly, bismuth is obtained commercially as a by-product of copper, lead, and zinc refining operations. Leading producers are China, Mexico, and Belgium.
(The entire section is 102 words.)
Primary Uses (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Technical Definition (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Bismuth (atomic symbol Bi) has an atomic number of 83 and is found in the nitrogen group (main Group V) of the periodic table. It is similar to antimony in its chemical properties but has significantly greater metallic behavior than the other elements in the group. There is only one naturally occurring isotope, so the atomic weight of bismuth, 208.980, is known very precisely. The element is brittle and white in appearance, with a pink tinge. It occurs in a variety of crystalline structures. The metal has a high resistivity and melts at 271.4° Celsius with a boiling point of 1,564° Celsius. Bismuth is unusual in that its volume expands by about 3 percent when it solidifies from the liquid. The solid has a density of 9.9 grams per cubic centimeter.
(The entire section is 125 words.)
Description, Distribution, and Forms (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
With a rarity akin to that of silver, bismuth is a relatively minor component of the Earth’s crust. It possesses some unique credentials: For example, all elements with an atomic number higher than bismuth are radioactive. It is one of three elements that is less dense in the solid phase than in the liquid. It is also one of only a handful of metals that can be found in nature in their elemental, or native, form. Elemental bismuth is not particularly toxic, an unusual property in heavy metals. However, inorganic bismuth compounds are often extremely poisonous. The relative rarity of bismuth has minimized its environmental impact.
(The entire section is 107 words.)
History (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The earliest recorded use of bismuth was in the mid-1400’s as an alloying material in casting type. German scientist Georgius Agricola stated that bismuth was a metal in the same family of metals as tin and lead. In 1753, French chemist Claude François Geoffroy identified bismuth as a chemical element, confirming Agricola’s postulation.
(The entire section is 55 words.)
Obtaining Bismuth (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
In addition to the native state, bismuth occurs in ores as an oxide, sulfide, and carbonate. Because of the scarcity of bismuth ores in the Earth’s crust, it is not mined directly but is typically produced commercially by extracting and refining it from the anode sludge generated during the electrochemical production of other metals. Annual world production of bismuth is on the order of 6,000 metric tons.
(The entire section is 67 words.)
Uses of Bismuth (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Functioning as a metallurgical additive remains one of the major uses of bismuth. In particular, fusible alloys, which have low melting points and are particularly useful in fire detection, often incorporate bismuth. The other major use of bismuth is in the pharmaceutical industry, where it is used to treat indigestion and as an antisyphilitic agent.
(The entire section is 55 words.)
Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Natural Resources Canada. Canadian Minerals Yearbook, 2005: Bismuth. http://www.nrcan-rncan.gc.ca/mms-smm/busi-indu/cmy-amc/content/2005/14.pdf
U.S. Geological Survey. Minerals Information: Bismuth Statistics and Information. http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/bismuth/
(The entire section is 35 words.)
Bismuth (Chemical Elements)
Early chemists had difficulty separating similar elements from each other. Elements with similar properties can only be told apart with tests not available before the eighteenth century.
Chemists also believed that metals grew in the earth, in much the same way that plants grow. Unattractive metals, like lead, were thought to be young or immature metals. More attractive metals, like tin, were thought to be partially grown. The most mature metals were silver and gold. This made identification very difficult. Were chemists looking at "older lead" or a "younger tin?"
Bismuth is one of the elements often confused with other elements. Old manuscripts show that bismuth was often confused with lead, tin, antimony, or even silver.
Bismuth was used in early alloys. An alloy is made by melting and mixing two...
(The entire section is 1110 words.)