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Engineering Materials - Nonferrous Metals - Beryllium

Non - Ferrous Metals


Beryllium has one of the highest melting points of the light metals. The modulus of elasticity of beryllium is approximately 1/3 greater than that of steel. It has excellent thermal conductivity, is nonmagnetic and resists attack by concentrated nitric acid. It is highly permeable to X-rays, and neutrons are liberated when it is hit by alpha particles, as from radium or polonium (about 30 neutrons/million alpha particles). At standard temperature and pressures beryllium resists oxidation when exposed to air (although its ability to scratch glass is probably due to the formation of a thin layer of the oxide). Beryllium is a very light weight metal with a high modulus of elasticity (five times that of ultrahigh-strength steels), high specific heat, and high specific strength (strength to weight ratio).

Uses -

Beryllium is used as an alloying agent in the production of beryllium-copper because of its ability to absorb large amounts of heat. Beryllium-copper alloys are used in a wide variety of applications because of their electrical and thermal conductivity, high strength and hardness, nonmagnetic properties, along with good corrosion and fatigue resistance. These applications include the making of spot-welding electrodes, springs, non-sparking tools and electrical contacts.

Due to their stiffness, light weight, and dimensional stability over a wide temperature range, beryllium-copper alloys are also used in the defense and aerospace industries as light-weight structural materials in high-speed aircraft, missiles, space vehicles and communication satellites.

Thin sheets of beryllium foil are used with X-ray detection diagnostics to filter out visible light and allow only X-rays to be detected.

In the field of X-ray lithography beryllium is used for the reproduction of microscopic integrated circuits.
Because it has a low thermal neutron absorption cross section, the nuclear power industry uses this metal in nuclear reactors as a neutron reflector and moderator.

Beryllium is used in nuclear weapons for similar reasons. For example, the critical mass of a plutonium sphere is significantly reduced if the plutonium is surrounded by a beryllium shell.

It is, however, brittle, chemically reactive, expensive to refine and form, and its impact strength is low compared to values for most other metals.


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