BOILING POINT : 1,564 ± 5°C
DENSITY : 9.747 g/cm 3
MOST COMMON IONS : Bi 3+ , Bi 4+

Bismuth is a brittle, crystalline metal that is white with a pinkish tint. It is the heaviest and only nontoxic member of the heavy metals . Its name is derived from the German Wismut ("white metal"), which was Latinized to bisemutum by G. Bauer in 1530. In early years it was confused with tin and lead. Bismuth has only one naturally occurring isotope , 209 Bi (the heaviest stable isotope of any element).

Peru, Japan, Mexico, and Canada are the main producers of bismuth. It can be found in several ores: bismuthinite (Bi 2 S 3 ), bismite (Bi 2 O 3 ), and bismutite (BiO 2 )CO 3 . It is also obtained as a by-product of the refining of silver and gold ores in the United States. Bismuth has an abundance in Earth's crust of 0.008 parts per million.

Bismuth commonly forms cations of +3 charge. It forms the basic oxide Bi 2 O 3 and salts of oxoacids such as Bi 2 (SO 4 ) 3 and Bi(NO 3 ) 3 . Reaction of the metal with halides such as fluorine and chlorine results in a salt with the formula of BiX 3 . Because of the size of the metal atom, the linkages are more ionic than those found for other group members.

Bismuth is the most diamagnetic of all metals and has low thermal conductivity. Since bismuth expands upon solidification, it is used to make castings for objects subjected to high temperatures. It is used as a replacement for lead in solders, shot for hunting, fishing sinkers, ceramic glazes, and brasses for plumbing applications. It is also used as a carrier for 235 U (an isotope of uranium) fuel in atomic reactors. Ionic compounds of bismuth are used in cosmetics and medicine.

Catherine H. Banks


Greenwood, Norman N., and Earnshaw, A. (1997). Chemistry of the Elements , 2nd edition. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Lide, David R., ed. (2003). The CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics , 84th edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Internet Resources

"Bismuth." U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries. Updated January 2003. Available from .

Also read article about Bismuth from Wikipedia

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