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Bismuth

What Is Bismuth?

Bismuth is a trivalent poor metal that can be found naturally un-combined in the Earth’s crust and is twice as abundant as gold. It has a silvery-white colour with a pink tinge. In its native form it can display many colours including blue and yellow.

Bismuth is dense but brittle. It has the second lowest thermal conductivity and a high electrical resistance. It used to be the heaviest naturally occurring stable element until it was discovered that it has slight radioactive qualities. Compared to the neighbouring elements in the periodic table bismuth has much lower toxicity and is fast becoming a substitute for lead in some commercial applications.

What Is Bismuth Used For?

As mentioned above bismuth is increasingly being used to replace lead and can be found in makeup products, alloys, solder, medicine and medical procedures. It is a carrier for fuel in nuclear reactors, as a pigment in acrylic paint and oils and is used in fishing sinkers. Due to its low melting point it is used in fire detection devices.

Where Is Bismuth Produced?

Mexico and Peru have the greatest bismuth resources but China is the top producer with at least a 40% world share. Australia and Bolivia have large amounts of native bismuth, but more emphasis has been placed on recycling bismuth as a by-product of smelting from lead and other metals like copper, silver, zinc, molybdenum, tungsten and tin.

Conclusion

Bismuth is a naturally occurring poor metal with a silvery-white and pinkish hue. It is heavy, dense and brittle. Bismuth has low toxicity making it an ideal replacement for lead and can now be found in makeup products, alloys, solder, paints as well as medicine.

South America has the largest bismuth reserves but China is the top producer.

If you would like to learn more about minerals and mining visit our Mining and Metals page.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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