Periodic Table > Beryllium


Some elements exist in several different structural forms, these are called allotropes.

For more information on Murray Robertson’s image see Uses and properties facts below.


Fact box terminology

Elements appear in columns or ‘groups’ in the periodic table. Members of a group typically have similar properties and electron configurations in their outer shell.

Elements are laid out into rows or ‘periods’ so that similar chemical behaviour is observed in columns.

Elements are organised into blocks by the orbital type in which the outer electrons are found. These blocks are named for the characteristic spectra they produce: sharp, principal, diffuse, and fundamental.

Atomic Number
The number of protons in the nucleus.

Atomic Radius/non -bonded (Å)
based on Van der Waals forces (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). These values were calculated using a multitude of methods including crystallographic data, gas kinetic collision cross sections, critical densities, liquid state properties, for more details please refer to the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.

Electron Configuration
The arrangements of electrons above the last (closed shell) noble gas.

Elements are defined by the number of protons in its centre (nucleus), whilst the number of neutrons present can vary. The variations in the number of neutrons will create elements of different mass which are known as isotopes.

Melting Point (oC)
The temperature at which the solid-liquid phase change occurs.

Melting Point (K)
The temperature at which the solid-liquid phase change occurs.

Melting Point (oF)
The temperature at which the solid-liquid phase change occurs.

Boiling Point (oC)
The temperature at which the liquid-gas phase change occurs.

Boiling Point (K)
The temperature at which the liquid-gas phase change occurs.

Boiling Point (oF)
The temperature at which the liquid-gas phase change occurs.

Elements that do not possess a liquid phase at atmospheric pressure (1 atm) are described as going through a sublimation process.

Density (kgm-3)
Density is the weight of a substance that would fill 1 m3 (at 298 K unless otherwise stated).

Relative Atomic Mass
The mass of an atom relative to that of Carbon-12. This is approximately the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus. Where more than one isotope exists the value given is the abundance weighted average.

Key Isotopes (% abundance)
An element must by definition have a fixed number of protons in its nucleus, and as such has a fixed atomic number, however variants of an element can exist with differing numbers of neutrons, and hence a different atomic masses (e.g. 12C has 6 protons and 6 neutrons and 13C has 6 protons and 7 neutrons).

CAS number
The Chemical Abstracts Service registry number is a unique identifier of a particular chemical, designed to prevent confusion arising from different languages and naming systems (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope).

Fact box

Group Melting point 1287 oC, 2348.6 oF, 1560.15 K 
Period Boiling point 2468 oC, 4474.4 oF, 2741.15 K 
Block Density (kg m-3) 1846 
Atomic number Relative atomic mass 9.012  
State at room temperature Solid  Key isotopes 9Be 
Electron configuration [He] 2s2  CAS number 7440-41-7 
ChemSpider ID 4573986 ChemSpider is a free chemical structure database

Uses and properties terminology

Image Explanation

Murray Robertson is the artist behind the images which make up Visual Elements. This is where the artist explains his interpretation of the element and the science behind the picture.

Natural Abundance

Where this element is most commonly found in nature.

Biological Roles

The elements role within the body of humans, animals and plants. Also functionality in medical advancements both today and years ago.


The description of the element in its natural form.

Uses and properties

Image explanation
Beryllium is used in gears and cogs particularly in the aviation industry.

 Beryllium is a silvery-white metal. It is relatively soft and has a low density.


Beryllium is used in alloys with copper or nickel to make gyroscopes, springs, electrical contacts, spot-welding electrodes and non-sparking tools. Mixing beryllium with these metals increases their electrical and thermal conductivity. 

Other beryllium alloys are used as structural materials for high-speed aircraft, missiles, spacecraft and communication satellites.

Beryllium is relatively transparent to X-rays so ultra-thin beryllium foil is finding use in X-ray lithography. Beryllium is also used in nuclear reactors as a reflector or moderator of neutrons.

The oxide has a very high melting point making it useful in nuclear work as well as having ceramic applications.

Biological role

Beryllium and its compounds are toxic and carcinogenic. If beryllium dust or fumes are inhaled, it can lead to an incurable inflammation of the lungs called berylliosis.

Natural abundance

Beryllium is found in about 30 different mineral species. The most important are beryl (beryllium aluminium silicate) and bertrandite (beryllium silicate). Emerald and aquamarine are precious forms of beryl.

The metal is usually prepared by reducing beryllium fluoride with magnesium metal.

Atomic data terminology

Atomic radius/non -bonded (Å)
Based on Van der Waals forces (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). These values were calculated using a multitude of methods including crystallographic data, gas kinetic collision cross sections, critical densities, liquid state properties,for more details please refer to the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.

Electron affinity (kJ mol-1)
The energy released when an additional electron is attached to the neutral atom and a negative ion is formed (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). *

Electronegativity (Pauling scale)
The degree to which an atom attracts electrons towards itself, expressed on a relative scale as a function bond dissociation energies, Ed in eV. χA - χB =(eV)-1/2sqrt(Ed(AB)-[Ed(AA)+Ed(BB)]/2), with χH set as 2.2 (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope).

1st Ionisation energy (kJ mol-1)
The minimum energy required to remove an electron from a neutral atom in its ground state (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope).

Covalent radius (Å)
The size of the atom within a covalent bond, given for typical oxidation number and coordination (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). ***

Atomic data

Atomic radius, non-bonded (Å) 1.530 Covalent radius (Å) 0.99
Electron affinity (kJ mol-1) Not stable Electronegativity
(Pauling scale)
Ionisation energies
(kJ mol-1)

Mining/Sourcing Information

Data for this section of the data page has been provided by the British Geological Survey. To review the full report please click here or please look at their website here.

Key for numbers generated

Governance indicators

1 (low) = 0 to 2

2 (medium-low) = 3 to 4

3 (medium) = 5 to 6

4 (medium-high) = 7 to 8

5 (high) = 9

Reserve base distribution

1 (low) = 0 to 30 %

2 (medium-low) = 30 to 45 %

3 (medium) = 45 to 60 %

4 (medium-high) = 60 to 75 %

5 (high) = 75 %

(Where data are unavailable an arbitrary score of 2 was allocated. For example, Be, As, Na, S, In, Cl, Ca and Ge are allocated a score of 2 since reserve base information is unavailable. Reserve base data are also unavailable for coal; however, reserve data for 2008 are available from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).)

Production Concentration

1 (low) = 0 to 30 %

2 (medium-low) = 30 to 45 %

3 (medium) = 45 to 60 %

4 (medium-high) = 60 to 75 %

5 (high) = 75 %

Crustal Abundance

1 (low) = 100 to 1000 ppm

2 (medium-low) =10 to 100 ppm

3 (medium) = 1 to 10 ppm

4 (medium-high) = 0.1 to 1 ppm

5 (high) = 0.1 ppm

(Where data are unavailable an arbitrary score of 2 was allocated. For example, He is allocated a score of 2 since crustal abundance data is unavailable.)

Explanations for terminology

Crustal Abundance (ppm)

The abundance of an element in the Earth's crust in parts-per-million (ppm) i.e. The number of atoms of this element per 1 million atoms of crust.


The country with the largest reserve base.

Reserve Base Distribution

This is a measure of the spread of future supplies, recording the percentage of a known resource likely to be available in the intermediate future (reserve base) located in the top three countries.

Production Concentrations

This reports the percentage of an element produced in the top three countries. The higher the value, the larger risk there is to supply.

Total Governance Factor

The World Bank produces a global percentile rank of political stability. The scoring system is given below, and the values for all three production countries were summed.

Relative Supply Risk Index

The Crustal Abundance, Reserve Base Distribution, Production Concentration and Governance Factor scores are summed and then divided by 2, to provide an overall Relative Supply Risk Index.

Supply risk

Scarcity factor 6.5
Country with largest reserve base Unknown
Crustal abundance (ppm) 1.9
Leading producer USA
Reserve base distribution (%) n/a
Production concentration (%) 85.10
Total governance factor(production) 6
Top 3 countries (mined)
  • Unknown
Top 3 countries (production)
  • 1) USA
  • 2) China
  • 3) Mozambique

Oxidation states and isotopes

Key for Isotopes

Half Life
  y years
  d days
  h hours
  m minutes
  s seconds
Mode of decay
  α alpha particle emission
  β negative beta (electron) emission
  β+ positron emission
  EC orbital electron capture
  sf spontaneous fission
  ββ double beta emission
  ECEC double orbital electron capture


Common Oxidation states
The oxidation state of an atom is a measure of the degree of oxidation of an atom. It is defined as being the charge that an atom would have if all bonds were ionic. Free atoms have an oxidation state of 0, and the sum of oxidation numbers within a substance must equal the overall charge.

Important Oxidation states
The most common oxidation states of an element in its compounds.

Elements are defined by the number of protons in its centre (nucleus), whilst the number of neutrons present can vary. The variations in the number of neutrons will create elements of different mass which are known as isotopes.

Oxidation states and isotopes

Common oxidation states 2
Isotopes Isotope Atomic mass Natural abundance (%) Half life Mode of decay
  9Be 9.012 100

Pressure and temperature - advanced terminology

Molar Heat Capacity (J mol-1 K-1)

Molar heat capacity is the energy required to heat a mole of a substance by 1 K.

Young's modulus (GPa)

Young's modulus is a measure of the stiffness of a substance, that is, it provides a measure of how difficult it is to extend a material, with a value given by the ratio of tensile strength to tensile strain.

Shear modulus (GPa)

The shear modulus of a material is a measure of how difficult it is to deform a material, and is given by the ratio of the shear stress to the shear strain.

Bulk modulus (GPa)

The bulk modulus is a measure of how difficult to compress a substance. Given by the ratio of the pressure on a body to the fractional decrease in volume.

Vapour Pressure (Pa)

Vapour pressure is the measure of the propensity of a substance to evaporate. It is defined as the equilibrium pressure exerted by the gas produced above a substance in a closed system.

Pressure and temperature data – advanced

Molar heat capacity
(J mol-1 K-1)
16.443 Young's modulus (GPa) Unknown
Shear modulus (GPa) Unknown Bulk modulus (GPa) Unknown
Vapour pressure  
Temperature (K)
400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400
Pressure (Pa)
- - 3.04
x 10-10
x 10-6
x 10-3
0.31 9.12 - - - -
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The gemstones beryl and emerald are both forms of beryllium aluminium silicate, Be3Al2(SiO3)6. The French mineralogist Abbé René-Just Haüy thought they might harbour a new element, and he asked Nicholas Louis Vauquelin, to analyse them and he realised they harboured a new metal and he investigated it. In February 1798 Vauquelin announced his discovery at the French Academy and named the element glaucinium (Greek glykys = sweet) because its compounds tasted sweet. Others preferred the name beryllium, based on the gemstone, and this is now the official name.

Beryllium metal was isolated in 1828 by Friedrich Wöhler at Berlin and independently by Antoine-Alexandere-Brutus Bussy at Paris, both of whom extracted it from beryllium chloride (BeCl2) by reacting this with potassium.

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Listen to Beryllium Podcast
Transcript :

Chemistry in its Element - Beryllium



You're listening to Chemistry in its element brought to you by Chemistry World, the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry

(End promo)


Chris Smith

Hello, this week to the element that the Big Bang forgot but which has bounced back as the stuff that the world's best springs are made from.   It's also given us gorgeous gemstones, spark proof tools for the oil industry and a deadly lung condition.  


Richard Van Noorden

Only hydrogen, helium and lithium were formed during the Big Bang itself. The next element, beryllium, is relatively rare in the universe because it is also not formed in the nuclear furnaces of stars. It takes a supernova, in which heavier nuclei disintegrate, to make this metal. 

Earlier plans to use beryllium on a large scale in the aerospace industries did not materialise even though it lightness and strength made it seem an ideal metal for such purposes. At one time it was even thought that beryllium powder would be used as a fuel for rockets on account of the colossal amount of heat which it releases when it is burnt. Now less than 500 tons of metal are refined each year because it is dangerously toxic.

Beryllium has no known biological role, and its dust causes chronic inflammation of the lungs and shortage of breath. Brief exposure to a lot of beryllium, or long exposure to a little, will bring on this lung condition which is known as berylliosis. The disease may take up to five years to manifest itself and about a third of those who are affected by it die prematurely and the rest are permanently disabled. Workers in industries using beryllium alloys were most at risk, such as those making early types of fluorescent lamps which were coated inside with an oxide film containing beryllium. In 1950 the manufacture of this type of lamp ceased. 

The minerals beryl and emerald are beryllium silicates and were known to the ancient world; the emperor Nero used a large emerald the better to view gladiatorial fights in the area. Their beautiful green colour is due to traces of chromium. Analysis of the oxygen in these gems enables their source to be identified because the isotope ratio of oxygen-18 to oxygen-16 varies according to where the mineral is found. The Romans got their emeralds mainly from Austria, although some came from as far away as Pakistan. More surprising was the discovery that the Mogul rulers of India got some of theirs from Colombia in South America probably via trade across the Pacific. The chief ores of beryllium are beryl and bertrandite, which is also a silicate. Sometimes truly enormous crystals of bertranide turn up, one specimen found in Maine in the USA was over 5 metres in length and weighed almost 20 tonnes. 


That beryl and emerald might harbour a new element was suspected by the 18th century and Nicholas Louis Vauquelin analysed them, and on 15 February 1798 he announced that they contained a new element - but he was unable to separated it from its oxide. Beryllium metal was isolated in 1828 from beryllium chloride (BeCl2) by reacting this with potassium.

Beryllium was to play a historic role in advancing our knowledge of atomic theory since it helped uncover the fundamental particle, the neutron. This was discovered in 1932 by James Chadwick who bombarded a sample of beryllium with the alpha-rays (which are helium nuclei) emanating from radium. He observed that it then emitted a new kind of subatomic particle which had mass but no charge. The combination of radium and beryllium is still used to generate neutrons for research purposes, although a million alpha-particles only manage to produce 30 neutrons. 

Beryllium is a silvery-white, lustrous, relatively soft metal of group 2 of the periodic table. The metal is unaffected by air or water, even at red heat. When copper and nickel are alloyed with beryllium they not only become much better at conducting electricity and heat, but they display remarkable elasticity. For this reason their alloys make good springs and the copper alloy is used to make spark-proof tools, which are the only ones allowed in sensitive areas such as oil refineries.

Beryllium has but a single isotope, beryllium-9 which is not radioactive but beryllium-10, which cosmic rays produce in the upper atmosphere, is radioactive with a half-life of 1.5 million years. Radioactive beryllium-10 has been detected in Greenland ice cores and marine sediments and the amount that has been measured in ice cores deposited over the past 200 years increases and decreases in line with the Sun's activity, as shown by the frequency of sun-spots. The amount of this isotope in marine sediments laid down in the last ice age was 25% higher than that in post-glacial deposits.   That tells us that the Earth's magnetic field was much weaker then than it is now.


Chris Smith

Richard Van Noorden with the story of Beryllium.   Next time we're telling the tale of a pair of twins that can make a glass blower's life a lot safer. 




Andrea Sella

One day, as he stood at his lathe with an orange inferno raging before him I asked him about the glasses he was wearing. "Didymium" he answered cryptically, and then noticing my blank look, he added "Cuts out the light. Try them." He passed me his specs, the lenses of a curious greeny-grey colour. I slipped them on and suddenly the flame was gone. All I could see was a red-hot piece of spinning glass unobscured by the glare. I gawped in wonder until Geoff pulled the specs off my face saying "Give 'em back ya fool" and went back to his work. 


Chris Smith

And you can catch up on the story of Didymium and its mysterious light controlling chemistry with Andrea Sella on next week's Chemistry in its Element, I do hope you can join us.   I'm Chris Smith, thank you for listening and goodbye.




Chemistry in its elementis brought to you by the Royal Society of Chemistry and produced by thenakedscientists dot com. There's more information and other episodes of Chemistry in its element on our website at chemistryworld dot org forward slash elements. 


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Images:  Visual Elements © Murray Robertson 2011
Mining and Sourcing data:  British Geological Survey – natural environment research council.
Text:  John Emsley Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements, Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 2011.
Additional information for platinum, gold, neodymium and dysprosium obtained from Material Value Consultancy Ltd
Data: CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, CRC Press, 92nd Edition, 2011.
G. W. C. Kaye and T. H. Laby Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants, Longman, 16th Edition, 1995.
Members of the RSC can access these books through our library.