Element of the Issue: Bismuth


SC Staff Writer

With even less particular order, here is this week’s “Element of the issue.”

Bismuth has a chemical symbol Bi and an atomic number of 83. The word Bismuth has two possible origins: the Arabic, bi imid, meaning having properties of antimony, or the German wismuth, meaning white mass.

Bismuth is the most diamagnetic metal, and has a very low conductivity for a metal. It was discovered to be radioactive in 2003, but only slightly and not to a harmful degree. For a heavy metal, Bismuth has a particularly low toxicity, giving it applications that would be dangerous if other metals were used.

Its low toxicity allows it to be safely used in cosmetics, pigments and pharmaceuticals. The most well known application of bismuth is Pepto-Bismol.

Bismuth is also used in casting of printing type, as it expands upon freezing, a unique characteristic for any substance. In the past, it has also been used as a treatment for burns and sexually transmitted diseases.

As with many metals, demand for bismuth skyrocketed during World War II. It was implementing in soldering, fuse wire, fusible alloys and medication on the battlefield. Bismuth was also used during atomic testing during this time.

Bismuth can be found naturally in its pure form in the earth’s crust, although rarely.

As a pure element, Bismuth is a brittle crystal and has a pinkish hue.

Impurities can change this hue into many bright colors in the right lighting. When formed into a conventional metal, it becomes a lustrous gray and turns very dense.

Most of the world’s Bismuth is found in compounds originating from Australia, Bolivia and China.

You may have never heard of it, but you have probably eaten it. Bismuth is a prime example of how we don’t even realize how elements can affect our everyday lives.

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