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a white, crystalline, brittle metal with a pinkish tinge found in some medicines
atomic number 83
melting point 520.3º
F (271.3º C)
Bismuth is one of very few metals that expands as it freezes. It has the highest resistance to being magnetized of all metals, as well as a high electrical resistance, and is second only to mercury in low thermal conductivity.
An extremely stable element, it is believed that 99.9999 percent of the bismuth present at the "birth" of the universe still exists.
Elemental bismuth is most commonly found as an ore, with bismuthinite (Bi2S3), bismutite ((BiO)2CO3), and bismite (Bi2O3) being the most common. It also occurs as crystals within sulphide ores of nickel, cobalt, silver, tin, and uranium.
The largest deposits of bismuth are found in Bolivia, but Peru, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Japan, England, Norway, and Brazil also have significant natural deposits.
Pure bismuth is most commonly produced as a by-product from lead, copper, tin, silver, and gold smelting.
Over half of the world's bismuth is used as a metal or in alloys. It is often mixed with lead, tin, or iron to form fusible alloys which melt at low temperatures which are then used as a thermocouple material.
Because it does not absorb neutrons readily, melted bismuth is used to carry uranium fuel for nuclear reactors.
Its extreme stability means it has minimal impact on the environment, making it an ideal material for bird shot and fishing sinkers.
Bismuth compounds are used as catalysts in manufacturing acrylonitrile, the starting material for synthetic fibers and rubbers.
One bismuth compound, tripotassium dicitratobismuthate, is well known for having the ability to calm upset stomachs and stop diarrhea (think Pepto Bismol), and other bismuth compounds are used in hemorrhoid creams and various cosmetics.
Bismuth has been known since ancient times, but was not confirmed as an element until 1753, by Claude Geoffroy the Younger.
The name is from the Latin word bisemutum, the exact meaning of which has never been conclusively determined.
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This page was last updated on 04/21/2017.