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Bismuth is mainly produced in China and Peru as a by-product of Lead and Zinc concentrate. In recent times Bismuth created many friends in the Green lobby due to its replacement for lead in sinkers for fishing and also in some bullets. It is therefore now possible to kill someone in an entirely green and friendly manner.

For one of its other main uses we must thank the French, as they have been the main exponents Bismuth’s use in compounds to treat gastric disorders. As my wife tells me, there are various over-the-counter medicines such as Pepto Bismol, which are extraordinarily resistant to certain bacteria such as Helico-bacter pylori which when treated with Bismuth containing medicine is able to withstand the extreme acid condition in the stomach. Vive La France!

Lipmann Walton’s more mundane trade is in Bismuth for low melting alloys which are well consumed in Belgium, UK and elsewhere.

I think of Bismuth as the most feminine metal – its lustre is slightly pink, it is brittle and in the form of Bismuth Oxychloride (Bi OCl) it is used to add the pearl effect in nail varnish and lipstick – and then it sorts out her stomach too when she is in a bad mood…Thank God for Bismuth!

Bismuth FACTS
Bismuth is a brittle metal with a silvery lustre and a pink tinge. It is stable when in contact with oxygen and water, but dissolves in concentrated HNO3. It used to be confused with tin and lead due to its resemblance to those elements. However, Claude Geoffroy Junine showed in 1753 that this metal is distinct from lead.

Among the heavy metals, it is the heaviest and the only non-toxic. No other metal is more diamagnetic than bismuth, except mercury. This metal, which occurs in its native form, has a high electrical resistance and when heated in air bismuth burns with a blue flame and its oxide forms yellow fumes.

In the early 1990s, research began on the evaluation of bismuth as a nontoxic replacement for lead in such uses as ceramic glazes, fishing sinkers, food processing equipment, as a substitute for lead in free-machining brasses for plumbing applications and free-cutting steels for precision machining properties and even as a carrier for uranium fuel in nuclear reactors.

Bismuth is used in alloys, pharmaceuticals, electronics, catalysts, cosmetics and pigments. Bismuth has also been used in solders. The fact that bismuth and many of its alloys expand slightly when they freeze make them ideal for this purpose. Bismuth subnitrate is a component of glazes that produces an iridescent luster finish.

The most important ores of bismuth are bismuthinite and bismite. Canada, Bolivia, Japan, Mexico, and Peru are major producers. Bismuth produced in the United States is obtained as a by-product in minute quantities of copper, gold, silver, tungsten, tin and especially lead ore processing.

Atomic no.
Relative atomic mass
Melting point
Boiling point
Electrical resistivity
Young’s modulus
Heat capacity
Thermal conductivity
271 oC
1564 oC
9747 Kgm-3
129 nΩm
34.0 GPa
25.52 J/K/mol
0.048 ppm
7.97 W/m/K