Berylliant Beryllium: Exceptional Performance, Endless Applications

Berylliant Beryllium: Exceptional Performance, Endless Applications
22 May 2023
Berylliant Beryllium: Exceptional Performance, Endless Applications

Beryllium is a particularly important chemical in today's world, delivering superior performance and reliability, with rising demand across multiple industries. Its interesting array of properties make beryllium the must-have metal for an extensive range of applications across multiple sectors, including, but not limited to, aerospace, medical, automotive, energy, and communications.

Where does beryllium come from?

The element was discovered in 17981 by French Chemist Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin5 from the mineral beryllium aluminium silicate, and the metal was later isolated in 182820 when it was extracted from beryllium chloride5. Known as beryllium since 195725, it was originally named glaucinium, from the Greek 'glykys’', meaning 'sweet' because of the taste of its compounds5. However, we wouldn’t advise putting it in your mouth as beryllium and its compounds are toxic20 and carcinogenic23.

Extracted from minerals such as bertrandite, beryl and emerald25, it requires extreme care during the production process of mining and extraction4. However, the material is usually not exposed in the final product, and it is always important to follow all safety procedures and guidelines21 to minimise the risk of exposure27.  The largest producer of beryllium is the USA21, other producers include China, Mozambique19, and Brazil26. Beryllium’s unique properties are critical to modern technological applications worldwide.



Beryllium is extracted from beryl gems, such as emerald & aquamarine

The superior properties of beryllium

It is the unrivalled light metal for an extensive range of applications, desired for its superior, often singular qualities and long-lasting reliability16 on a global scale.

  • It is a lighter-weight metal than aluminium2 due to its low density and has useful mechanical characteristics.
  • Beryllium is stronger than steel2, with a remarkably high strength to weight ratio.
  • At room temperature the steel-grey metal is stiff17 but brittle and can be rolled, extruded, and machined with great accuracy.
  • It can be alloyed with other metals, such as copper, for greater strength and elasticity3.
  • Beryllium’s excellent thermal conductivity gives it the highest melting point compared to other light metals, including titanium and aluminium17.
  • Its low thermal expansion, low reactivity and low neutron absorption enable functionality for critical technologies of the modern world unlike any other light metal17.

The uses and applications of beryllium on a global scale

Beryllium has a wide and considerable influence on applications for today’s technological world, extending into the future16. Let us explore beryllium metal and alloy uses across several sectors to highlight beryllium’s impact and importance around the globe.

Aerospace: Sky rocketing performance

Beryllium’s unmatched qualities and performance make it the premier material for critical applications in aerospace. Being light weight with high strength at extreme temperatures9, Beryllium is ideal for high performance aerospace applications such as components in rockets, satellites, and aircraft.

The James Webb Space Telescope uses a beryllium mirror5 to see objects at tremendous distances and for longevity10 and durability in extreme conditions23.

Beryllium’s unique properties make it unparalleled for use in heat shields to protect rockets on atmospheric reentry.

Satellite components and devices containing Beryllium are unrivalled in the extreme conditions of space and permit longer, more capable space missions9.

The unmatched traits of copper beryllium alloys when applied in aviation no-fail electrical, electronic, and mechanical connectors and components empower fly-by-wire commercial airlines to become more fuel efficient with lower emissions, as well as facilitating critical safety systems and features, including aviation navigation systems, aircraft landing gear and de-icing mechanisms12.

Materials containing beryllium play a role in airport security and are often used for components used in x-ray machines, baggage sorting and scanning equipment, along with other applications vital to security, keeping us safe when we fly14.  

Medical: Essential to saving and enhancing lives

Medical imaging is a critical intervention of health care, for diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of a wide range of medical conditions and diseases. Beryllium’s mix of unique characteristics makes it indispensable in medical radiology. Beryllium windows are used extensively in x-ray and γ-ray equipment due to its stability, heat resistance, strength, and high transparency to x-rays22, maintaining x-ray beam3 focus in the vacuum of an x-ray tube generator23. Beryllium enables highly targeted24, lower radiation doses for high-resolution mammography for detection of early-stage breast cancer as well as cancer intervention in the form of radiation therapy8.

Beryllia (Beryllium Oxide) ceramics are used in ophthalmological medical lasers to restore or improve vision5.

Copper beryllium alloy connectors transmit precise electrical signals to delicate surgical instruments and monitoring devices in the latest non-invasive surgical techniques18, and precision blood analysis equipment8.



Medical applications of beryllium include windows for x-ray machines

Automotive: Getting you there, safely

Beryllium alloys are desirable within the automotive industry for the benefits and superiority offered by their unique range of traits.

Lightweight in nature, Beryllium alloys allow for greater reliability and fuel efficiency when used in connectors for the electrical systems13.

Beryllium copper alloy components are used in electric motors, transmissions, fuel injection systems, anti-lock braking systems, airbag crash sensory5 and deployment systems, and traction control13.

Beryllium is an essential component for electronic safety and navigation technologies, including those used in cars, such as GPS13.

Its use in crucial automotive safety systems highlights just how vital Beryllium is for getting you where you need to go, safely.

Energy: Powering today, helping to deliver future sustainability

Beryllium-containing alloys are fundamental in energy production as we know it and are an invaluable resource in developing and discovering sustainable energy sources for the future.

The combination of low reactivity, low thermal expansion, excellent thermal conductivity, and neutron absorption in beryllium alloys make it indispensable in oil and gas drilling equipment6 for effective exploration and production. When the Macondo Well pipe9 in the Gulf of Mexico was damaged, copper beryllium clamps, were implemented to securely fasten the capping stack18 to plug the oil spill and allow for delicate specialist equipment to repair the damage11. The repair was only possible due to the copper beryllium alloy, which combines strength, flexibility, transparency to magnetic fields and non-sparking qualities9.

Beryllium is already helping to deliver sustainable energy through the capture of sunshine to generate clean solar power5. Beryllium alloys are used in component terminals of thin-film solar panels because of their strength, thermal management, and conductivity traits11. Beryllia ceramic’s superior thermal properties enable high efficiency in CPV solar cells.

The future of clean, sustainable energy could be achieved through nuclear fusion.5 Currently in the experimental stages, nuclear fusion has the potential to deliver almost unlimited power sources, with virtually no greenhouse gases and minimal nuclear waste, compared to traditional nuclear fission reactors. With the requisite properties of neutron reflecting and moderating and ability to withstand extremely high temperatures6, Beryllium is employed in fusion reactors, and has qualified for use in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)17 project. Beryllium components have already been proven in the Joint European Torus (JET)18 experimental reactor in the UK11. Beryllium is already a strong contender to help deliver the future of sustainable energy.

Communications: Enabling global and technological communications

Beryllium facilitates communication across the globe, whether it be connecting continents through fibre optics, technology and electronics, or advancing digital technology through miniaturisation and performance.  

Beryllium is vital to our underwater fibre optics18 network as it is resistant to corrosive sea waters and extreme pressures, allowing it to perform flawlessly for years with little deterioration. Fibre optic cables run along the ocean floor, and copper beryllium is used in barrel-like housings which protect the electronics of fibre optic cables, enabling them to function without fault13.

Beryllium copper alloys are the unsung hero for multifunction devices. Meeting the requirements of durability, electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, strength, elasticity and being lightweight, this alloy is ideal to use as battery contacts and electronic connectors, especially those liable to fatigue through constant use, opening and closing, vibrations and accidental drops13.

Beryllium containing materials offer low electrical resistance and high thermal conductivity which supports the merging and miniaturisation of multiple functions in single device, for example, combining a phone, camera and MP3 player into a compact device13.

Beryllium materials also help to advance digital technology through enabling smaller high-performance processors with denser layers of high frequency circuits. Beryllia ceramic, with its exceptional thermal conductivity, 10 times greater than alumina ceramic, is the insulator of choice to help protect electronic systems from damaging intense heat13.



 Due to its low electrical resistance and high thermal conductivity, beryllium is often used in the miniaturisation of high-performance devices 

Beryllium: The gem of light metals

The unique combination of properties Beryllium metal and alloys possess are unequalled, making it the premier light metal material. With the ability to be used extensively for many applications, including components and connectors in electronic and electrical devices, across many sectors – aerospace, medical, automotive, energy, telecommunications, defense and more – beryllium’s current impact and future potential across the globe is limitless – what a gem!


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