Discovered in 1797 by N.L. Vauquelin in Paris, but not extracted until 1828 by Wöhler (Berlin) and A.A.B. Bussy (Paris). Beryllium is a light and lustrous metal which is obtained by the electrolysis of a fused halide (e.g. BeCl₂). It is resistant to attack by air or water, even at elevated temperatures (red heat). Beryllium is non-magnetic, is a good thermal conductor and is used as an alloying addition to copper or nickel, the alloys having excellent thermal, mechanical and electrical properties; in addition, when alloyed with nickel, the resultant Be/Ni alloy has the highest coefficient for secondary electron emission (12.3). Applications for pure beryllium include its use as windows in X-ray tubes and as a source of neutrons when bombarded with alpha particles, a technique used by Chadwick in 1932 in their discovery. Beryllium and its compounds are highly toxic, inhalation of the dust resulting in berylliosis, an inflammation of the lungs.
Un materiale ad alta purezza usato come fonte per lo sputtering, un processo di vaporizzazione a freddo nel quale gli atomi vengono fisicamente rimossi dalla superficie target mediante un bombardamento di ioni.