Friday, December 7, 2012

Beryllium APEX Mineral

Beryllium (BE #4) is the next element on the periodic table for my APEX mineral collection.  
Beryllium Minerals - found in over 100 minerals
Hambergite (Be2BO3(OH)) containing 19% Beryllium is the best choice for APEX Mineral.  
Ah, finally.  Now we arrive at something somewhat collectible for mineral samples.  Yes, this is still relatively rare like Lithium.  However Beryllium does form many compounds.  All the Beryls shown above contain Beryllium.  Beryllium also doesn't disperse as a salt into the ocean like Lithium does.   

Beryllium is a rare element.  The two main ores of beryllium, beryl and bertrandite, are found in a few countries.

Beryllium was only used as the precious Beryl minerals prior to the 19th century.
Beryllium is used in x-ray windows (it is transparent to x-rays), in high speed  gyroscopes (very light and rigid), and in many missile parts (light weight)
Beryllium is a known carcinogen and is not critical to any known biological processes.
When I first started building MEOWSER my intention was to collect pure elements.  It wasn't long before I decided this was a bad idea.  A cabinet full of gray metals was not going to be too exciting.  I switched to my APEX mineral collection theme instead.  Minerals are interesting and cool since they come in many colors, shapes, crystals, combinations, etc.  Lighting them up with LED's would be way cooler.

However, I did manage to collect a few pure elements before the APEX minerals took over.  Two of these elements I collected were the lightest and heaviest metals just so I could hold them in my hands and feel the contrast.
  • Beryllium is the lightest metal that you can hold in your hand.  Lithium is a little lighter but way too reactive to hold.  Pure Beryllium is not so easy to get since only 200 tons per year are produced.  It wasn't even available until 1957 when it started being used in rocket parts.  I managed to find a piece of a broken missile gyroscope on EBAY from some guy in Austria.  When you hold it in your hand it is light as a feather.  Really cool stuff.  However, since Beryllium dust is somewhat toxic to some sensitive people I can't let my friends handle this.  I have to be careful with this pure sample and keep it away from my uranium minerals.  Alpha particles from decaying Uranium hits Beryllium which then likes to throw off neutrons.  Nasty stuff.  Pretty much guaranteed cancer if you sit around long enough.
  • Tungsten is the heaviest metal that I could afford.  There are a few somewhat heavier but these are very costly.  Tungsten has the same density as Gold and a big problem is Tungsten filled Gold bars.  I called around to Tungsten factories and found one in California that sold me a 7 pound block.  Way cool.  This is one of my favorite toys.  I love to just hold it in one hand and feel the weight of such a tiny object.  Since this stuff is also the hardest metal known it is guaranteed to break something if you drop it.