Beryllium oxide (BeO) is a ceramic material that, in addition to its high strength and electrical resistivity, has a high heat conduction capacity that makes it part of nuclear reactors, surpassing even metals in this last property.
In addition to its usefulness as a synthetic material, it can also be found in nature, although it is rare. It must be managed with care, as it has the potential to cause serious health damage in humans.
In the modern world, it has been observed how scientists associated with technology companies conduct research to develop advanced materials for quite specific applications, such as those that comply with semiconductor materials and the aerospace industry.
The result has been the discovery of substances that, thanks to their extremely useful properties and their high durability, have given us the opportunity to advance in time, allowing us to take our technology to a higher level.
A molecule of beryllium oxide (also called “beryllia”) It is composed of one beryllium atom and one oxygen atom, both coordinated in a tetrahedral orientation, and crystallized in hexagonal crystalline structures called wurtzites .
These crystals have tetrahedral centers occupied by Be 2+ and O 2- . At high temperatures, the structure of beryllium oxide becomes tetragonal.
Obtaining beryllium oxide is achieved by three methods: calcination of beryllium carbonate, dehydration of beryllium hydroxide, or ignition of beryllium metal. Beryllium oxide formed at high temperatures is inert, but can be dissolved by many compounds.
Beco 3 + heat → Beo + CO 2 (baking)
HO (OH) 2 → BeO + H 2 O (dehydration)
2 Be + O 2 → 2 BeO (ignition)
Finally, beryllium oxide can be vaporized, and in this state it will be presented as diatomic molecules.
Beryllium oxide occurs in nature as bromelite, a white mineral found in some complex deposits of manganese iron, but it is most commonly found in its synthetic form: a white amorphous solid that is produced as a powder. ..
In addition, impurities trapped during production will give a variety of colors to the oxide sample.
Its melting point is 2507 °C, its boiling point is 3900 °C, and its density is 3.01 g / cm 3 .
Likewise, its chemical stability is quite high, reacting only with water vapor at temperatures of 1000 ºC, and can resist carbon reduction processes and attacks by molten metals at high temperatures.
In addition, its mechanical strength is decent, and can be improved with suitable design and construction for commercial use.
Beryllium oxide is a very stable ceramic material, and therefore has a fairly high electrical resistivity which makes it one of the best electrical insulating materials along with alumina.
Because of this, this material is commonly used for specialized high-frequency electrical equipment.
Beryllium oxide has a great advantage in terms of its thermal conductivity: it is known to be the second best heat conducting material among non-metals, being exceeded only by diamond, a material that is much more expensive and rare. .
For metals only copper and silver transfer heat better than beryllium oxide, making it a very desirable material.
Due to its excellent heat conducting properties, this substance has been involved in the production of refractory materials.
Because of its crystalline properties, beryllium oxide is used for the use of transparent materials in some flat screens and photovoltaic cells for ultraviolet.
Likewise, crystals of very high quality can be produced, so these properties improve according to the manufacturing process used.
Beryllium oxide is a compound that must be handled with great care, as it has carcinogenic properties previously associated with the continuous inhalation of powder or vapors of this material.
Small particles in these stages of oxides adhere to the lungs, and can cause the formation of tumors or a disease known as berylliosis.
Beryliosis is a disease with a median mortality rate that causes incapacitating breathing, cough, weight loss and fever, and the formation of granulomas in the lungs or other affected organs.
There are also health hazards from direct contact of beryllium oxide with the skin, as it is corrosive and irritating, and can damage the surface of the skin and mucous membranes. The respiratory tract and hands should be protected when working with this material, especially in its powdered form.
The use of beryllium oxide is mainly divided into three: electronic, nuclear and other applications.
The ability to transfer heat to a high level and its good electrical resistivity have gained beryllium oxide a great utility as a heat sink.
It has been used in circuits inside high-powered computers, in addition to devices handling high currents of electricity.
Beryllium oxide is transparent to X-rays and microwaves, so it is used in windows against this type of radiation, as well as in antennas, communication systems and microwave ovens.
Its ability to moderate neutrons and maintain its structure under radiation bombardment has led to beryllium oxide being incorporated into the construction of nuclear reactors, and can also be employed in high-temperature reactors cooled by gases.
The low density of beryllium oxide has generated interest in the aerospace and military technology industries, as it may represent a low-weight alternative in rocket engines and bulletproof vests.
Finally, it has recently been applied in metallurgical industries as a refractory material in the fusion of metals.