Beryllium – sweet and precious, but deadly

Alison Ballance - Senior Producer

Beryllium is a very light metal (atomic number 4, symbol Be), found at the top of the periodic table.

It’s colourless, but in combination with other chemicals you’ll find it on jewel-encrusted rings and necklaces in the form of emeralds, beryls and aquamarines.

It tastes sweet but it’s poisonous (so don’t eat it or inhale the dust).

And Professor Allan Blackman from AUT says that beryllium is being used to create the massive mirrors that will be part of the upcoming James Webb space telescope.

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The Elemental podcast is celebrating 150 years since the periodic table was first published by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.

We are exploring the periodic table alphabetically and so far we have looked at all the As: actinium, aluminium, americium, antimony, argon, arsenic and astatine.

Find out more about events during the United Nation’s International Year of the Periodic Table.

Nights with Bryan Crump is also celebrating the chemical elements during their Friday night Sonic Tonic and Element of the Week.

Professor Allan Blackman is at Auckland University of Technology.

Beryllium – sweet and precious, but deadly
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