Chem Explorers

The Alluring World of Bismuth: From Crystals to Applications

Bismuth is a chemical element that possesses the atomic number 83 and the symbol “Bi.” It belongs to the p-block of periodic table and is considered a post-transition metal. Bismuth has been known to mankind since ancient times and has played a vital role in many industrial, technological, and medical applications.

In this article, we will discuss the natural occurrence of bismuth, its history, and how it has been used throughout human history.

Natural Occurrence of Bismuth

Bismuth occurs naturally in the Earth’s crust in the form of ores and mineral deposits. The metal can be found in association with other metals such as lead, silver, tin, and copper.

Some of the most significant mineral sources of bismuth include bismuthinite (Bi2S3), bismite (Bi2O3), and native bismuth. Bismuth ores are primarily found in Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, and Australia.

However, the primary source of bismuth is from the refining of lead and copper ores. The process involves the removal of other impurities present in the ores, which includes bismuth.

Bismuth is extracted through a process of electrolysis using molten calcium chloride, which separates the bismuth from other metals.

History of Bismuth

The origin of the name bismuth can be traced back to the German word “wismut,” which meant “white mass.” The Latin term for the metal was “bisemutum,” which is derived from the words “bis” meaning twice and “emutum” meaning smelted. This term was used due to the fact that bismuth was isolated by smelting two sources – lead and tin.

In the 15th century, alchemists used bismuth in their experiments. Georg Agricola was the first to describe bismuth properties in the 16th century.

The metal was first isolated in pure form by Johann Heinrich Pott in 1738. Bismuth was used in alloys during the Bronze Age and was also used as cosmetics and medicines in ancient Egypt.

Bismuth has been used as a medicinal agent since ancient times. During the 16th century, Paracelsus used bismuth salts to treat various diseases.

Bismuth subsalicylate is used for the treatment of stomach ulcers and diarrhea. Bismuth oxychloride is used in cosmetics for its reflective properties.

Bismuth Allotrope Forms

Bismuth possesses two major allotropes: rhombohedral and cubic. Rhombohedral bismuth is the most common form of bismuth and has a pinkish cast with a metallic sheen.

The rhombohedral crystal structure gives bismuth its unique physical and electrical properties. It is brittle and can be easily powdered into fine particles.

Cubic bismuth, also known as delta bismuth, is a less common allotrope of the metal. It exhibits metallic properties at room temperature and is electrically conductive.

Unlike rhombohedral bismuth, cubic bismuth does not have any pinkish hue and has a silver-white color. Its crystal structure is similar to that of diamond and silicon.


Bismuth is a unique metal that has played an important role throughout human history. Its natural occurrence in ores and mineral deposits makes it an abundant element on Earth.

Bismuth’s unique physical and electrical properties have allowed it to be used in many technological and industrial applications. Additionally, its use as a medicinal agent highlights the versatility of this element.

It is clear that bismuth will continue to be a critical material in many different areas of our lives. Bismuth is a chemical element with the atomic number 83 and the symbol Bi. Its CAS number is 7440-69-9.

Bismuth belongs to the p-block of the periodic table and is located in Group 15 (VA) along with nitrogen, phosphorus, arsenic, antimony, and moscovium. It is in Period 6 and Block p.

Properties of Bismuth

General Properties

Bismuth is a post-transition metal that has an atomic mass of 208.980 and a molar mass of 208.98 g/mol. Its most abundant isotope is ^209Bi with a mass number of 209.

Bismuth is stable and non-radioactive; however, it has radioactive isotopes.

Physical Properties

Bismuth is a silvery-white metal that has a pinkish tint. It is brittle and can be easily powdered into fine particles.

Bismuth has no odor, and it is not toxic to humans. It has a melting point of 271.3C, which is relatively low compared to other metals.

Its boiling point is 1560C. The density of bismuth is 9.78 g/cm, which makes it one of the densest metals.

Bismuth is a poor conductor of heat and electricity. It has a thermal conductivity of 7.97 W/(m K) and an electrical conductivity of 1.29 10^6 S/m.

Bismuth has a standard state of solid at room temperature.

Chemical Properties

Bismuth is relatively unreactive, and it does not react with air or water at room temperature. However, it is oxidized by nitric acid, aqua regia, and hot concentrated sulfuric acid slowly.

Bismuth’s reactivity increases with temperature.

When heated, bismuth burns in air with a blue flame to form oxides of bismuth.

The metal can also react with halogens to form bismuth halides. Bismuth can form compounds in different oxidation states, including +2, +3, and +5.

Bismuth has a low electronegativity of 1.9, which indicates that it is less likely to attract electrons towards itself and easier to form positive ions. Bismuth’s first ionization energy is 703 kJ/mol, which is relatively high compared to other metals.

The high ionization energy means that it requires significant energy to remove an electron from a bismuth atom.

Applications of Bismuth

Due to its unique physical and chemical properties, bismuth has many practical applications in various industries. Most notably, bismuth is used in the manufacturing of low-melting-point alloys, such as fusible alloys and solder.

These alloys, which contain bismuth, tin, and lead, have a low melting point and are used in electrical fuses, fire safety devices, and automatic sprinkler systems. Bismuth is also used in the production of various other alloys, including stainless steel, with bismuth acting as a hardener.

It is also used as a component in casting molds, where it is added to create fine details without distorting the overall shape. Bismuth has several other uses in different areas such as cosmetics, paints, and pigments.

Bismuth oxychloride, a compound of bismuth, is commonly used in cosmetics because of its reflective properties. Additionally, bismuth subcitrate and bismuth subsalicylate are used in medicine to treat stomach ulcers and diarrhea.


Bismuth is a unique metal that has unique physical and chemical properties. Due to its low melting point, bismuth and its alloys find applications in many industries, including electrical fuses and fire safety devices.

In addition, it has medicinal applications and is used in cosmetics as well. Bismuth’s diverse applications demonstrate its significance in various fields.

Bismuth is a chemical element with unique properties that make it useful in a variety of industries and applications. In this article, we will discuss common uses of bismuth and its potential toxicity and safety measures for handling it.

Usage of Bismuth

Bismuth in Ammunition

Bismuth is a safer alternative to lead in ammunition, especially for shotgun shells. Bismuth has a similar density to lead, which makes it an effective substitute.

Lead and other metals were traditionally used in ammunition, but they pose significant health risks and environmental concerns. Tungsten is another common substitute, but it is more expensive than bismuth.

Bismuth in Magnetic Levitation Devices

Bismuth is used in magnetic levitation devices due to its diamagnetic properties. Diamagnetism is a property that describes the tendency of a material to react with a magnetic field.

Bismuth’s diamagnetic properties make it a suitable material for high-speed trains and other transportation systems that use magnetic levitation.

Bismuth in Medication

Bismuth subsalicylate is used to treat upset stomach, heartburn, and nausea. Bismuth subsalicylate is a mild antacid that works by coating the stomach lining and protecting it against stomach acid.

Bismuth subsalicylate has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which makes it useful in treating infections caused by Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium responsible for stomach ulcers.

Bismuth in Alloys

Bismuth is used as an alloy in the production of bismuth bronze, which is an alloy of copper, zinc, nickel, lead, and bismuth. Bismuth bronze is used in applications where high precision is required, such as clocks, watches, and other mechanical devices.

Bismuth alloys are also used in solders, as they provide low melting points and excellent wetting properties.

Bismuth in Electronics and Fuel Cells

Bismuth nanoparticles and bismuth oxide are used in various electronic applications, such as cathodes for solid fuel cells. Bismuth oxide is useful in cancer imaging as a contrast agent that can help doctors visualize tumors.

Bismuth as a Substitute for Lead

Bismuth is used as a substitute for lead in various applications such as sinkers, water pipes, and fishing weights. Bismuth’s low toxicity, excellent casting properties, and comparable densities to lead make it an ideal replacement for lead.

Bismuth in Glass Manufacturing

Bismuth is used as a coloring agent in the glass manufacturing industry. The metal’s unique optical properties give glass a wide range of colors.

However, bismuth toxicity is a concern in the glass industry, as some bismuth compounds can pose significant health risks.

Bismuth in Electroplating

Bismuth is also used in electroplating applications, such as bearings for gasoline and diesel engines. Bismuth electroplating provides a cost-effective, alternative to other metals, and provides a durable, corrosion-resistant layer.

Bismuth in Jewelry Making

Bismuth is a popular choice for jewelry making because of its iridescent, crystalline structure. The metal is used to create unique pieces that often resemble natural minerals such as pyrite or labradorite.

Toxicity and Safety of Bismuth

Bismuth is generally considered safe when handled correctly. However, exposure to bismuth fumes can cause symptoms such as nausea, headache, and diarrhea.

High levels of bismuth exposure can lead to damage to the kidneys and other organs.

When working with bismuth, it is essential to take proper precautions such as wearing gloves and avoiding skin contact with the metal or its compounds.

It is important to ensure proper ventilation when working in areas that produce bismuth fumes. Other safety guidelines include avoiding eating, drinking, or smoking in areas where bismuth is present.


Bismuth is an essential metal that is used in a wide range of applications. It is a safer alternative to other metals such as lead and is used in ammunition, medication, and many other industries.

When handling bismuth, it is important to take proper precautions to prevent exposure and ensure safety. Bismuth, with its unique properties and abundant occurrence, has captivated the interest of scientists and researchers for centuries.

In this article, we will explore some interesting facts about bismuth, including its symbolic representation, the artificial growth of bismuth crystals, and its price in the market.

Symbolic Representation of Bismuth

Bismuth is associated with two alchemical symbolsthe alchemical symbol of bismuth and the lab apparatus symbol. The alchemical symbol for bismuth resembles an upside-down crescent moon resting on a small circle.

The lab apparatus symbol for bismuth is a rounded triangular shape with a vertical line and two horizontal lines representing the placement of bismuth in laboratory equipment. These symbolic representations highlight the historical significance of bismuth in alchemical and scientific practices.

Bismuth’s unique properties and applications have made it an essential element in many laboratory experiments and creative endeavors.

Artificial Growth of Bismuth Crystals

Bismuth crystals are renowned for their mesmerizing geometric patterns and vibrant colors. While bismuth occurs naturally in crystal form, it is also possible to grow bismuth crystals artificially.

This process involves melting bismuth in a crucible and allowing it to cool slowly to form crystals. The mesmerizing colors seen on bismuth crystals are due to a thin layer of oxide that forms on the surface of the metal as it cools.

This oxide layer refracts light and produces an iridescent effect, creating striking hues of pinks, blues, purples, and greens. The beautiful and intricate patterns formed by bismuth crystals make them a popular choice for decorative and artistic purposes.

Price of Bismuth

The price of bismuth can vary depending on various factors, including the global supply and demand, purity, and market conditions. Bismuth is considered a relatively low-cost metal compared to other rare and precious metals.

As of [current year], the price of bismuth ranges from approximately [price range] per kilogram of raw metal. It is worth noting that bismuth is typically bought and sold in small quantities, measured in grams, rather than in larger bulk amounts.

This is due to its relatively low density, as a small amount of bismuth can cover a larger surface area in comparison to other metals. The cost of bismuth in small quantities, such as for jewelry making or artistic purposes, can be more expensive due to additional costs associated with processing, refining, and manufacturing the metal into specific forms or shapes.

These additional costs contribute to the final retail price of bismuth products.

Interesting Facts about Bismuth

1. Bismuth is the most naturally diamagnetic element, which means it repels magnetic fields rather than attracting them.

2. Bismuth has the highest Hall coefficient (a measure of the strength of the magnetic field generated by an electric current) of all metals, making it useful in magnetic sensors.

3. Bismuth has a rather low toxicity compared to other heavy metals, which contributes to its use in medicinal applications and as a replacement for lead.

4. Bismuth has the unusual property of expanding upon solidification, rather than contracting like most other elements.

5. Bismuth is classified as brittle, which means it can be easily broken or powdered.

This brittleness is due to the rhombohedral structure of bismuth crystals. 6.

Bismuth has been used in traditional remedies and folklore to treat ailments such as digestive issues and fevers. 7.

Bismuth has a unique property known as the “Bismuth effect,” where it exhibits a spiraling staircase pattern when melted and resolidified.


Bismuth is not only a versatile metal with various applications but also a fascinating element with enduring appeal. Its symbolic representation in alchemy and laboratory practices highlights its historical significance, while the artificial growth of bismuth crystals showcases its mesmerizing beauty.

The price of bismuth varies depending on market conditions and purity. These interesting facts about bismuth contribute to its allure and demonstrate why it continues to captivate scientists, artists, and researchers alike.

Bismuth is a fascinating element with various applications, and its unique properties have captivated scientists, artists, and researchers throughout history. From its symbolic representation in alchemy to the artificial growth of its mesmerizing crystals, bismuth continues to intrigue and inspire.

Its relatively low cost and low toxicity make it a versatile substitute for other metals, such as lead. However, it is essential to handle bismuth with safety precautions to avoid potential health hazards.

Overall, bismuth’s significance in diverse fields highlights its value and potential for innovation and creativity. FAQs:


How is bismuth represented symbolically? Bismuth is symbolized by an upside-down crescent moon resting on a small circle in alchemy and a rounded triangular shape with vertical and horizontal lines in lab apparatus symbolism.

2. Can bismuth crystals be grown artificially?

Yes, bismuth crystals can be grown artificially by melting bismuth in a crucible and allowing it to cool slowly to form intricate patterns with iridescent colors. 3.

What is the price of bismuth? The price of bismuth varies depending on factors such as supply and demand, purity, and market conditions, ranging from [price range] per kilogram of raw metal.

4. Is bismuth toxic?

Bismuth has relatively low toxicity compared to other heavy metals, but it is important to handle it with proper precautions to prevent potential health risks. 5.

What are some interesting facts about bismuth? Bismuth is the most naturally diamagnetic element, expands when it solidifies, and has a unique spiraling pattern when melted and resolidified.

Overall, bismuth’s unique properties, applications, and intriguing characteristics make it an element of great scientific, artistic, and industrial interest.

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